• Muffins
  • Manna/Mirage (Random Radar) 1978 
  • Air Fiction (Random Radar) 1979 
  • 185 (Random Radar) 1981 

Hailing from Maryland and its environs, the Muffins mined the (under)ground first opened by the jazz-rock experiments of Henry Cow. (In fact, they backed guitarist Fred Frith on one of his solo records.) Though tentative, the Muffins were one of the few American bands of their era to explore the truly unusual, and if they failed, at least they tried.

Manna/Mirage doesn’t quite reach the edge of edge music, but the Muffins make it one of the genre’s livelier ventures. The use of such peculiar instrumentation as kitchenware and pennywhistle adds to the avant vibe, but the Muffins never attain the peak for which they seemed to be headed, and some effects — the munchkin vocals on “Adventures of Captain Boomerang,” for example — are just plain silly. Air Fiction, which is half live and half studio, was issued only as a limited-edition authorized “bootleg.”

[Steven Grant]