posted January 23rd, 2018

Poke it with a Stick -- the only record by Louisville legends Your Food -- is a sui generis gem of the American underground, now faithfully reissued for the first time by Drag City. Recorded in 1983 by four scarecrows from Kentucky subsisting largely on cheap beer and baked beans, the album is a burbling burgoo of hypnotic rhythm, uncoiling tension, and sharp invective -- a proud bastard of post-punk royalty.

In the fall of 1981, the residents of 1069, Louisville's original punk house, began to spy two teenagers lurking outside the decrepit environs. Eventually the teens grew bold enough to approach, and soon John Bailey and Wolf Knapp, were learning guitar and bass in the trashed rehearsal space within. Charles Schultz, who had been the drummer for Louisville's recently defunct Dickbrains (a band described by the Village Voice as freaky weirdos who couldn't fit in if they tried) started playing with John and Wolf. Douglas Maxson, the Dickbrains male singer, was lured back from New York with the promise of beer and cigarettes, and soon Your Food was playing weekly shows at the local Beat Club, mostly for free beer.

Financed by a Pell Grant and what little cash the band could scrounge, the album was cut largely live in the studio by a guy who usually recorded church groups, and self-released on the band's own Screaming Whoredog label. The prevailing themes of restlessness and isolation are palpable in songs like opener "Leave," where ennui morphs into dark comic fantasy. The punk funk of "Don't Be" fits perfectly with the downtown NYC groove of bands like ESG and Bush Tetras.

It was a golden age, but a waning one, an adolescent state before hope or commercial prospect or any plan for the future. Your Food managed three short tours in a world before cell phones, social media, or global positioning, and earned the admiration of the few who heard them. But, it all came to a spectacularly bitter end on the side of some frozen, forlorn highway in West Virginia. After the van broke down three times in four days, the band called it quits. Add this essential reissue to your collection on March 23rd!

Artists in this story: Your Food