Michael Yonkers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Michael Yonkers 

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It took 34 years for Michael Yonkers's Microminiature Love to make it into record stores, but I'll leave it to the theologians to debate whether this demonstrates that the world is fallen, that God is benevolent, or both. I'll just say that the album--recorded in 1968 but shelved after the guitarist's relationship with Sire Records went sour--is one of my favorite rock releases of the 21st century. First pressed in 2002 by vinyl hounds Destijl and reissued a year later on CD by Sub Pop, the record sounds startlingly up-to-date. Not only is the Vietnam-era alienation of songs like "Boy in the Sandbox" and "Kill the Enemy" once again infuriatingly topical, but Yonkers's ringing, open-tuned guitar riffs and corrosively noisy solos have more points of contact with Sonic Youth than with the Trashmen or the Novas, his peers on the Minneapolis garage-rock scene of the 60s. It's a miracle that Yonkers is around to see Microminiature Love's release: he broke his back in an industrial accident in 1971, then developed a degenerative condition of the spinal cord after suffering an allergic reaction to a dye injected during a diagnostic procedure. Nonetheless he self-released several LPs of haunted outsider folk in the mid-70s, and has never quit playing music at home--though for decades he's focused on dance, which helps him manage his chronic pain. Encouraged by the warm reception Microminiature Love has received, he's started releasing fresh material again after a hiatus of 28 years. It's Only Yonkers (Galactic Zoo Disk/Eclipse) was recorded at home with the same Telecaster he played back in the day--sawed down to a plank--and though the bluesy new songs lumber where the old stuff struts and sprints, they're every bit as distorted and pissed off. Yonkers makes his Chicago debut at this show, part of the Million Tongues Festival. P.G. Six (aka Tower Recordings multi-instrumentalist Pat Gruber), Matt Valentine & Erika Elder, and Charalambides open; "sideshow" performances include sets by Nick Castro and Goldblood. $15. Saturday, August 7, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.


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