The ambiguities that pervade our fair language consistently astound me. My most recent rendezvous with wooly English occurred during a stroll through the music department of the Bookstore. The Minus 5's Down With Wilco caught my eye from the shelf. Were they bashing the band responsible for the best album of 2002? Upon further scrutiny, I learned that the band wittily omitted the prefix 'we're' from the title (as in [We're] Down With Wilco), as the Minus 5's latest release is a collaboration with the aforementioned band. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy co-wrote two songs and the band backs The Minus 5 (a.k.a. Scott McCaughey) on each track. Wilco hardcores will most likely be disappointed by this record. Lacking are the poignantly obscure lyrics, emotional depth, and deeply rooted American spirit that permeate Wilco's best work. More apparent than Wilco's influence are similarities to Ben Folds (in McCaughey's suburban intellectualizing) and the Beatles (in the album's primal sonic experimentation). Down With Wilco's best tracks are "Retrieval Of You" and "The Family Gardener" -- both co-written by Jeff Tweedy. They contain Tweedy-isms such as the catchy repeated chorus of "I drive by airports practicing retrievals of you." On these compositional collaborations, McCaughey's musical sense and vocal style work well. On the remainder, unfortunately, it almost seems as though he is mocking himself. The songs are contrived and the hooks are unconvincing. In the future, it may be wise for McCaughey to spend more time at his piano, writing, with Tweedy at his side.


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