MICHAEL YONKERS BAND
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1968. Techie-teen leader of Michael and the Mumbles tires of twanging surf ditties at prom and VFW crowds, so he saws down his Fender and slashes open his speakers and lets his ominous baritone vibrato’s pomped-up medieval-castle Procol Harum poetry fall into black holes of Link Wray-reverbed ugliness—startling now, though maybe less so then, with Hendrix and Blue Cheer in the Top 40. The grooves do a troglodyte pound, and three songs serve up barely coherent ‘Nam protest. The sudden bloodcurdling screams are pure Sonics and the Gregorian goth moans pure Yardbirds, but the freeform-chaos coda “Scat Jam” is the Stooges’ “L.A. Blues” two years early. Sire somehow never got around to putting out the thing, but 35 years later we sure are lucky.
(Sonic Unyon import)
Hamilton, Ontario (in Daniel Lanois’s mom’s basement and on a shopping mall roof), 1973-78: Smart delinquents inspired by repetitious noise of “Sister Ray,” free jazz, Terry Riley, Eno-era Roxy, Detroit (which wasn’t far), Pink Floyd (who supplied their name), obscure German and Brit prog and folk and glam from the import bins, and various hard drugs help invent punk rock when no one’s around to hear it. Early-Ubu wah-wah, early-UFO bongolated snares, Sun Ra astro effects, Lou Reed deadpans, analog overtones, “Fox on the Run” proto-techno blips, words about Eva Braun and “treat me like dirt” you can almost hear sometimes, goofy spoken intros: “OK, here’s some, uh, heavy metalloid music . . . a song of the future.” But not theirs: When the Moog guy quits, they turn to inept roadhouse boogie, then (for their life span’s one measly seven-inch) pedestrian powerpop.
Bayonne, New Jersey, 1976: Future veep of copyright licensing for the ARC Music Group bridge-and-tunnels into a Manhattan attic and Brooklyn cellar, lays down an LP’s worth of sedatedly sung songwriter demos in the key of Z, presses up 500 copies to little avail. Thanks in part to his Shaggs sense of melody, half of it anticipates the lamest lo-fi antifolk indulgences of modern times, but even those tracks are redeemed somewhat by Gordon Gaines’s bursts of Live Rust/Blue Mask feedback. Original bookends “Night Rider” and “No Heavy Trucking” (where “parking fines” sounds like “porcupines”) boogie the furriest, until the tacked-on two-sided 1980 single: a new-wave-geek attempt at dirty-mind disco that some hepster DJ should program between Material and Dinosaur L, backed with a gumptious Bowery-pogo tribute dissing Chevies and John Denver.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 18, 2003