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Two for One

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And then, of course, something else entirely happened in Seattle -- and the group that had titled its first album The Fabulous Sounds of the Northwest and had worked with Butch Vig years before the rest of the world had heard of the Nirvana producer/Garbage drummer basically got left behind.

"I thought it was great," McCaughey says without hesitation. "I mean, I liked most of those bands, and so I was really happy that they were doing well. I didn't feel like it was this big thing. People always kind of think, 'Well, God, the Fellows got overlooked.' But we were a different kind of thing. Compare one of our records to a Nirvana record. There's just no way it would ever be as popular or sell as much. Nevermind has great songs, it's played and produced really well, and it's loud. But it's kinda clean-sounding. Our records are all over the map. There are just so many different kinds of songs, and they are kind of loose and goofy. It's just not something that I ever thought would appeal to a mass audience. So I never felt like we got overlooked. I always felt like [the success of other Seattle bands] was a really good thing. I mean, it would have been nice if fewer people had died from heroin overdoses as part of it, but, musically, it was a great thing. And I was glad that Mudhoney got a record deal and that the guys were able to buy houses and stuff like that."

Yet their fans still feel the Fellows were robbed. "Unlike most of the bands I've worked with, the Fellows never gave me a moment's heartache," says Frontier Records owner Lisa Fancher. "They were kind to everyone; they showed up where and when they were supposed to, and they never complained about anything -- ever. I highly resent the fact that the less excellent versions of the Fellows -- like They Might Be Giants and the Branched Ladies -- became rich, and they didn't. Then again, things that make me angry only make Scott laugh -- one more reason why he rules."

Fortunately, this Rodney Dangerfield of rock bands is getting another shot outside of Seattle and Spain with the release of Because We Hate You -- which is packaged as a goofy "Battle of the Bands" double album with a second disc, Let the War Against Music Begin, by the Minus 5. The brain child of Mammoth Records' new president, former Hollywood Records A&R honcho Rob Seidenberg, the two discs deserve a Consumer Guide award for providing so much great pop material at such a bargain price. It's undoubtedly Minus 5's disc -- which McCaughey describes as "way more poppy and not quite as slow and weird" as the previous Minus 5 albums -- that will get the most attention, because of the presence of Buck and other special guests like Robyn Hitchcock, various Posies, and High Llama Sean O'Hagan. But make no mistake about it: From the Beach Boys/Beatle-isms on "Barky's Spiritual Store" and the glorious "Little Bell" to the hard-rockin' interpretation of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart's bubblegum classic "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" (complete with the asides of "Ah, c'mon now!!"), the '60s-style epic "The Ballad of Only You and the Can Present Forest Fires" and the psychedelic splendor of "Lonely Spartanburg Flower Stall" (which merges Little Richard's "Lucille" with the Only Ones), the Fellows' album is also a big gem in this double-sided pop crown. In its own way, it's every bit as good as -- if not better than -- This One's for the Ladies.

Though the Fellows have created a candidate for best pop album of 2001, don't expect to see them on MTV anytime soon. "I could show you our tax returns for the Fellows for the last five years, and it's not enough income to support one of us, much less four of us," McCaughey says. He also admits that the Fellows could be like that other bar band Westerberg once compared them to -- playing legitimate rock 'n' roll well into their 50s. "Like I said, we're too lame and wishy-washy to break up, so I think we'll just always do stuff when it seems like a fun thing to do -- and when we can all swing it."

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Bill Holdship