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Michael Yonkers Band

One of the beautiful things about independent record labels is the passion of the people who run them for rock esoterica of decades past; in 2002 and 2003, we've been treated to such treasures as Matador's two-disc Richard Hell retrospective, Tiger Style's James Chance box set, Secretly Canadian's ambitious Nikki Sudden reissue series and Sonic Unyon's essential Simply Saucer re-release. Now from Sub Pop Records, which has previously released retrospectives of shambolic Scottish twee-popsters The Vaselines and Australian punk icons Radio Birdman, comes this wonderful bit of proto-punk garage-rock obscuro out of late '60s Minneapolis, MN.

First, a little background: Michael Yonkers has to rank among American rock's most intriguing eccentrics. His adolescent obsession with garage and surf eventually developed into a fascination with gadgetry that would inform his band's dynamic brand of rock primitivism but also indirectly cause him years of health problems. Recording with his own modified guitar (a sawed-down Telecaster he still plays today) and homemade effects, Yonkers released five little-heard albums on his own label in the mid 1970s. But then in 1971, he broke his back in an accident at the electronics factory where he worked; years of surgery and an allergic reaction to dye used in X-rays caused a degenerative spinal condition which Yonkers now treats through dance. Now in his 50s, Yonkers is a prominent figure in the Minneapolis dance community for years and he occasionally still plays live music as well.

Recorded in 1968 when Yonkers was still a teenager, Microminiature Love provides another link between the dirty swagger of '60s garage and the angry hallucinations of '70s punk. The record's incredibly cruddy production style (it sounds like it was recorded straight to tape in an echoey basement) recalls Stooges outtakes, while its dark, dissonant rhythms and zany flavor presage Pere Ubu. With its cheap guitar pyrotechnics, layers of distortion and weird effects, and Yonkers's gloomy vocals, Microminiature Love was the kind of album that would have driven Lester Bangs into fits of frothy-mouthed ecstasy. Only Bangs never heard the record, because a deal with Sire to release it fell through and Microminiature Love languished in unreleased obscurity until 2002, when De Stijl Records rescued it with a vinyl-only release. Sub Pop's new CD version adds six previously unreleased 1968-era tracks.

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