The Midwest has spawned more than its fair share of melodic, thrilling punk music – the Minneapolis scene itself of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s can lay claim to no less than three seminal acts – but many scenes were under-documented and bands that could or should have been huge (or at the very least, influential) simply struggled along for a couple years before giving up the dream and taking on day jobs. The Micronotz, spawned out of Lawrence, Kansas, were one of those bands. Initially starting as a punchy, angular act that highlighted original vocalist Dean Lubensky’s nervy yelp, the band developed into a melodic punk powerhouse over the course of four full-length lps. With the addition of new singer Jay Hauptli’s burly bellow, the band pushed into sonic territory similar to Husker Du or Chicago’s Naked Raygun. Their second album with Hauptli at the mic, 1986’s “40 Fingers”, is a great distillation of mid-20s ennui and romantic frustration. “Black and White” could be a long-lost Doughboys track and their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” brings to mind Overwhelming Colorfast’s version of Simon’s “For Emily” (Hauptli’s voice bears more than passing resemblance to OC’s great Bob Reed). The absolutely pummeling title track sounds like it could go desperately off the rails at any moment and it’s breathtaking.
Sadly, the Micronotz wouldn’t make it out of 1986 intact, splintering just weeks after the album hit shelves. It’s too bad, because “40 Fingers” is easily their finest work and showed a band that had finally figured out how to harness its strengths. Luckily, Bar/None has reissued all five Micronotz albums as part of its 30th anniversary celebration, so hopefully they will get some of the belated recognition that they richly deserve.