This latest in decades of collaborations between R.E.M. guitar man Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey is the pair’s third collection with Norwegians Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen and Frode Strømstad. Listeners familiar with Buck and the prolific McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, The Baseball Project) will not be surprised to discover a power-pop janglefest, in this case with lyrics showcasing McCaughey’s entertaining hyper-literacy of the post-1959 songbook.
My Evil is a concept album insomuch as it celebrates pop artists and lore that have informed these musicians’ art, especially in the cases of 60-somethings Buck and McCaughey. From the Whitman-esque cataloging of songs and artists in “KLIV” (the San Jose AM station of McCaughey’s youth) to “Time Sent Lewis” (a paean to modern songwriter Jenny Lewis), the homage extends to the music, as well. As McCaughey notes in the liners, Buck relied heavily on his “Jelez White” (sic) pedal – i.e., a Vox-inspired Jext Telez White overdrive – throughout, not surprising given titles like “Song For George.”
Not to say these tunes are monochromatic; guitar textures are as varied as McCaughey’s name-checks, all in the service of the giant guitar hooks that have become his calling card.
This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.