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The Minus 5: Of Monkees & Men *

Album Notes

It's probably impossible to figure out how many folks ended up starting bands after the Monkees made their TV debut in 1966, showing America's youth that wacky adventures were in store once you picked up a guitar and moved into a band house. Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 was one of those kids who had their heads turned around by regular exposure to the Prefab Four, and he clearly has a place in his heart for the Monkees and their legacy. In 2015, McCaughey released a vinyl box set that included an album devoted to honoring his heroes. Four of those tunes concerned the members of the Monkees, and now Of Monkees & Men has been given a stand-alone release that allows a wider audience to appreciate his tributes. As it happens, the usually witty McCaughey takes this a bit more seriously than you might expect. There's a fair share of humor and fanciful wordplay on Of Monkees & Men, but he makes it clear he's not joking. McCaughey honestly loves the Monkees, and his epic-length saga of Michael Nesmith and his muse (as well as the shorter but similarly impassioned ode to Peter Tork) makes clear that he learned a lot from the band and its body of work, and his tribute is winning in its sincerity. (In addition to the four Monkees, McCaughey also includes a tune about Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the duo who wrote some of their biggest hits.) McCaughey doubles down on this theme on the second half of the album. In addition to tipping his cap to actor Robert Ryan and the excellent alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, McCaughey includes two songs about talented, musically inclined friends whom he's lost, and there's heart, soul, and passion in "Blue Rickenbacker" and "Weymer Never Dies" that make this some of McCaughey's most emotionally powerful work. While he's brought along some talented friends to help him out (including Peter Buck and Mike Mills from R.E.M.), Of Monkees & Men is above all a Scott McCaughey album. Even the most playful songs are deeply personal, leaving no doubt about how much the Monkees meant to him in 1966 as well as 2015. ~ Mark Deming



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