Postcard illustrating the Blind School of Foochow, 1900
There's something so alluring about the cover of Microminiature Love, a red-tinted photo of Michael Yonkers holding a homemade double-necked guitar, standing in front of a wall of primitive-looking electronics. I don't know if this was the original cover Yonkers intended for the album when it was recorded in 1968 and then shelved by Sire Records, but it was the cover that went on the Sub Pop reissue of Microminiature Love that came out in 2003. When I saw a used copy of the CD at the store, I felt compelled to picked it up.
I guess I had a definite set of expectations about what the Michael Yonkers record would sound like because I was a little disappointed right away. The first thing that I noticed was the odd guitar tuning, which gives the songs on Microminiature Love a unnerving, clanging sound that is quite unlike other '60s rock records. Together with the homemade effects that Yonkers used like his "Fuzz'n'Bark" distortion box, the guitar sound is distinctive, unusual and attention-grabbing. The problem I have is that the alternate guitar tuning on every song makes the record a little monotonous after a while. And then there's Yonkers' voice, a theatrical, stentorian baritone that gives the songs a sense of unnecessary melodrama - from the moment Yonkers starts singing on "Jasontown", the album's opening track, I cringe a little. Some of the songs on Microminiature Love are really cool sounding, but I can never really get past these issues. And one last quibble I have is that Yonkers' original album was only seven songs long, and the six bonus tracks added to the reissue are inferior enough that they drag the whole thing down a bit.
Still, though - it's got a great cover, and that's worth something, right?
"Microminiature Love" by the Michael Yonkers Band