Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Microminiature Love

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2003 at 12:00 AM

By way of bringing you up to speed, this is a long-lost garage-psych artifact hailing from the war- and dope-challenged year of 1968. Michael Yonkers, a Minneapolis guitar whiz and gear geek, had landed his band a contract with Sire records, but when the deal went south the tapes wound up going unreleased — until last year, when the Destijl label unearthed the album and issued it on vinyl. Sub Pop’s new CD edition adds six bonus tracks from ‘69 plus in-depth liner notes from noted West Coast musicologist Karl Ikola. And let’s be deadly honest here: Microminiature Love is some seriously kick-ass fuh.

In one sense, the music is clearly of an era. The anti-Vietnam screed “Kill The Enemy” sounds eerily timeless, taking to task the utter “rightness” with which a warmongering establishment goes about its business. The tune sonically resembles a cross between the Rolling Stones’ “Going Home” and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ deranged brand of choogle (Yonkers even emits a Roky-like shriek near the end). “Boy In The Sandbox,” as Ikola rightly observes, bears passing resemblance to Pink Floyd’s thundering classic “Lucifer Sam,” with Yonkers additionally yapping and moaning into the mic like he’s about to pass glass-sharded stools. One of the best tracks is the title cut, which, with its dark, descending bass line, part-swaggering/ part-shuddery beat and edgy, gulping vocal, foreshadow the gloomy investigations that Pere Ubu would specialize in a few years later. For that matter, noting the album’s ever-present drone sound — the result of Yonkers favoring a decidedly non-rockish open tuning — it wouldn’t be that far off to say that he’s a distant godfather of Sonic Youth too.

The bonus material is looser and of lesser fidelity but keeps the vibe consistent. Thrumming anthem “Hush Hush” could’ve been ripped from the womb of a vintage Velvet Underground jam, and, speaking of jams, “Scat Jam” is a live-in-studio freakout, like “Tobacco Road” succumbing to whoops, grunts, fretboard strangulations and, uh, a drum solo. Hey, it was 1969, f’r chrissakes — give the band a break.

Sadly, it took Destijl (and now Sub Pop) getting into the act for Yonkers to get any break whatsoever. Not only did the album not get released, he had a tragic accident in ‘71 which led to a severe physical disability; to this day he can only endure brief spurts of actual playing. He performs very rarely.

For some reason the record makes me think of Lester Bangs, champion of no-hopers, horrible noise-niks and against-the-grainers. Writing about avant-weirdos (and, no small coincidence, Yonkers peers) the Godz in Creem many years ago, Bangs observed, “At their best, they made the craziest of the touted Crazies look like bluesjam diddlers, and few indeed have made it to their Cheshire outpost on the limb even yet ... Yowling freer than we ever dreamed, [their] every yowl and squeak and whinny is a hymn of praise to their ancient eminence.” No doubt Bangs would’ve let blurt similar admiration had Microminiature Love appeared in its day. Higher praise, methinks, one cannot render.

E-mail Fred Mills at letters@metrotimes.com.

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