This quartet — teenagers at the outset, their minds filled with the world — must have felt constricted in the confines of Lawrence, Kansas. The sound on The Mortal Micronotz is a little tinny, but these guys have your standard ’70s Ameri-punk moves down cold — sort of a sub-Dead Boys, but tighter. Dean Lubensky is an okay singer, making the adolescent alienation lyrics sound more believable than they read. He also handles lyrics that were given to the band by homeboy William S. Burroughs with similar aplomb. Added treat: a good’n’noisy version of “Let It All Hang Out,” which the Hombres first released when these guys were still in diapers.
Their name truncated and Burroughs nowhere in sight, the Micronotz showed no sign of losing any of their rock’n’roll energy on Smash!, a 45 rpm album that includes Iggy’s “I Got a Right” plus seven originals. Lubensky’s vocals are mighty rough, John Harper’s guitar playing pretty swift and the song subjects a bit more mature; a convincing record with a personality (of sorts) all its own. Production could have been a lot clearer, though.
The band’s next release (under the old name) was a 7- inch EP containing five live renditions. Lubensky then left and was replaced by Jay Hauptli in time for The Beast That Devoured Itself, another raggedly entertaining punked-out collection that generally rises above all of the genre’s typical limitations.
The bracingly good 40 Fingers is a triumphant stylistic distillation, a powerful and varied dose of mature post-thrash intelligence that in spots resembles Hüsker Dü. Without losing any of their adolescent strength, the Micronotz are playing better than ever, and Hauptli’s coarse vocals have gained a melodic validity, vastly improved by Harper’s harmonies. (At times they sound a tad like the Ramones.) A cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” serves as a showcase for the band’s new-found abilities.
Following the death of bassist David Dale in January 1993, the ‘Notz enjoyed a small renaissance of sorts: reunion shows, hordes of local press and the release of two retrospective discs on CD and a tribute album. Complete Recordings I traces the band’s evolution through the “classic” years, otherwise known as the Lubensky era, while Complete Recordings II deals with the Hauptli sound (The Beast and 40 Fingers), releases that some purists consider inferior due to their considerably more abrasive sound. The two releases include several outtakes of nominal interest, but make no attempt to update (i.e. distort) the true sound and energy of the band. The ‘Notz are presented in all of their filthy, childish glory.
The Micronotz Tribute Album presents Lawrence and Kansas City bands of varying degrees of notoriety. Burroughs emerged from hiding to record a haunting version of “Old Lady Sloan” with surf goofballs (and record store gurus) the Eudoras. It also includes such possibly recognizable bands as the tragically stillborn Stick (victims of Arista Records), international cult favorites and onetime Mammoth Records darlings Kill Creek and such now-forgotten local outfits as the female trio Shower Trick and the iconoclastic Cher UK.