Michael Yonkers with the Blind Shake
Found this bitchin’ cutie mooching around the CD mountain, and yes I know its been out for ages – you’ve probably bought, played it to the point its worn straight through, loved it to death and filed it away within arms reach. Well that’s our ‘hands up guv’nor it’s a fair cop’ moment of honesty. We openly admit we are crud at this review type write up thing. That said you know how we love to root out strange sounds made by strange people, well to be honest we don’t root them out, informed press reps root them out and send them over to us for critical absolution with the proviso they’ll come around and kick our heads in if we don’t come up with the goodies, of course we jest and the mere fact that we’ve had kind donations of spare bricks passing through our window is to be treated as a mere coincidence.
Anyhow back to the thread that we were purposely weaving before we veered off road. Strange sounds by strange people – okay a bit of a misnomer, there’s absolutely nothing strange about Michael Yonkers except for his blighted by misfortune journey here, for he is one of those rare breed of renegades from the 60’s that the garage scene almost recklessly forgot about for the best part of 35 years. Befitting a legend shuffled around in a beaten up threadbare guitar case by a redeemed blues pioneer, Yonkers – to paraphrase his lengthy pre-history – appeared on the scene in the 60’s as part of the short-lived surf beat combo the Pharaohs, swiftly fronted the even shorter lived Mumbles and then simply as the Michael Yonkers Band wherein he recorded the now semi legendary ’Micro miniature love’ which would lie gathering dust after the collapse of a deal with Sire in ’68 until being unearthed and released by De Stijl in 2003. The resulting experience along with the political climate of the day would lead him to briefly withdraw from the music scene and experiment in isolation with electronics and loops returning to the fray to continue recording self released folk albums during the 70’s in (now much sought after) limited quantities. A lover of gadgets and by all accounts a bugger for trying to push the sound of the guitar – in the main – into new territories it wasn’t uncommon to find him rigging together fuzz boxes and bastardising Theremins while his unique detuned sound was borne of an accident at the tail end of a Mumbles gig when his guitar loosened itself from its stand. An debilitating spinal injury in ’71 complicated by medical procedures nearly left him paralysed leading him to discover the therapeutic aid of dance. The rest as they say is history.
Aided and abetted by Minneapolis trio the Blind Shake, ‘Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons’ is a heaving blues bar room shakedown boogie of some merit, thundering out of the traps like a dragster charged horse cart bound for hell or at the very least to the fabled crossroads. Fourteen tear-arsing cuts shoehorned into a brief but explosively charged 32 minutes, Yonkers packing his trusted mojo bag sounding like a man on a mission miraculously untainted, undiluted and untouched by the intervening years and ready to kick backside big time and tear a strip off the current crop of riff slingers plundering the garage blues scene.
Unremitting in its intensity and rawness, this blistered baby sounds like a hotrod in storage that’s just had its covers ripped off after being discovered untouched and idling unloved for 40 years such is its nailed to the spot vintage sheen. All at once scowling, growling, edgy and playful (just check out Yonkers faux yodelling on the doom laced and recalcitrant ’Can it be’ wherein he sounds like a bruised latter career Johnny Cash) once in earshot ‘Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons’ locks you in a choking strangle hold and literally flings you around your listening space, no wuss out weak links here – no sir – this is a pure unadulterated bone rattling brew. Stuff like ’point ahead’ is pure pedal steel to the floor groove, a fierce some no nonsense freewheeling slab on grizzled rock-a-billy much recalling Reverend Horton Heat while those much fond of head bowed and swollen slabs of groaning fester like swamp grind may do well to clock ’here’s what I’m’ jarringly packed replete with its eruptive spiked tremors.
And while Yonkers and Co admirably run the gamut across the primitive grave stones of garage’s rich and wayward tapestry at various points drawing the spiritual bloodlines between the blues pioneers, through to rock’s first uneasy steps via Sun freewheeling through Detroit (none more so than on the death head soul craft of the tyre scorched and frayed ‘don’t even try’) and beyond with their blistering squalls of septic blues clearly along the way nodding to legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, R L Burnside and Link (especially on the primitive ‘what’s a comin’) right through to the likes of the Mono Men, the Grifters and John Spencer Blues Explosion there’s just one comparable album that keeps nagging in the psyche that being Mojo Nixon’s pairing with Jello Biafra for ‘prairie home invasion’. Then there’s the psychotropic haze of the menacing ‘I ask you now’ with its neat nods to the Monkees ‘(I’m not your) Stepping Stone’ and the gnarled agitated raging frenzy of the opening title cut with its subtly worked Beefheart scowls. Effects laden sparring can be found on the bliss out noise work outs ‘this one again’ and ‘down to a’ though all said and done best moment by far is the fury rattling arid snake winding hip hugging cranium clamping ‘when will we’ – smoked and distilled just right and branded with huge motherf*cking letters on its hide the words ’cool as f*ck’.
An absolute gem and welcomed reclamation of one of the 60’s lost foot soldiers.
Key tracks –
‘when will we’
‘what’s a comin’
from August 2008