Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

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Meat Puppets

(most of this page is by Jed Leigh Mosenfelder)

Reviewed on this page:
In A Car - Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II - Up On The Sun - Out My Way - Mirage - Huevos - Live In Montana - Monsters - Forbidden Places - Too High To Die - No Joke!

"My favorite Meat Pup LP is pretty much whichever one I'm listening to" - Chuck Eddy

I think that says it all. I could be happy being stranded on a desert island with any of these albums. I'm new at this rating game thing, so take mine with a grain of salt. Personally, I find it difficult to "objectively" rate the albums of my favorite band against each other. So with sincere apologies to my dear brother I have to confess that I cannot give any Meat Puppets album less than 3 stars, and even that pains me. Oh well, just get the records and listen to 'em yourself - you can't lose.

For the uninitiated, the Meat Puppets are a power trio from the Arizona desert who grew out of the early 80s punk scene and managed to survive the subsequent decade of bad music surrounding them to come out strong in the Grunge revolution. But that is not really a satisfactory description of the music - the meat puppets play a wide variety of mind-bending sounds from hardcore punk to country rock to acid-induced trippy bluegrass/folk music to arena-type Van Halen-ish heavy rock and roll. The thing that unifies most of the music is an unrelenting attention to writing the goofiest, most hilarious lyrics imaginable, or at least words that don't make any conventional sense together, even when they are desperately heartfelt and sincere. And that's what makes this band so lovable. But they can also rock the house, and probably smoke your whole stash if you will just give them the chance. The band consists of:

  • Leader Curt Kirkwood on Bitchin' guitar and vocals, writes most of the tunes, usually has the longest hair
  • Brother Cris Kirkwood on bass and vocals, with perhaps the loopiest lyrical talent of the three.
  • Derrick Bostrom on rock-steady drums

For those really interested in this band, the Meat Puppets home page maintained by Derrick Bostrom is a must. Therein can be found news of the band, original band art, photos, more professional reviews of their records than those here, and other assorted silliness including rare sound clips. (JLM)

The unofficial Kirkwood's Chemical Garden site is also pretty good. (JA)

In A Car (1981?)

For serious collectors only - if you buy the CD, you'll be paying about $2 a minute! (5 songs total 5:19). On the other hand, if you like the early thrash-country sound of the meat puppets, you'll like it. (JLM)

Meat Puppets (1982)
An early incarnation of the meat puppets, this record establishes their hardcore and "punk-country" roots. The rapid-fire, tortured vocals and psychotic mumbling make the lyrics totally unintelligible, but don't let it fool you, there are some crafty songs here in addition to some hilarious covers ("Tumblin' tunmbleweeds", "walking boss"). The music is raw - definitely not for the timid. I wouldn't recommend it until you are a die-hard pups fan, unless you like raving mad, goofy (not stupidly offensive) hardcore punk music to begin with. In that case, slip this one in and crank it up! (JLM)

Meat Puppets II (1983)
Starting with the rave-up punk song "split myself in two", the puppets then depart from their early thrash sound into new and varied territory - from hillbilly country rock tunes ("Magic Toy Missing", "Lost", "Climbing") to delicate finger-pickin' instrumentals ("Aurora Borealis", "I'm a Mindless Idiot") to "Dylan-esque" rock songs ("plateau", "Oh, me"). For those who prefer the hard stuff, there's also "new Gods" and "Lake of Fire", the latter of which has become a Meat Puppets classic, covered by Nirvana on their unplugged album and rerecorded by the meat puppets ten years after its first incarnation. The sum total is a fun record showing the band's mastery of an eclectic range of music styles, setting the stage for another decade-plus of musical exploration. Highly recommended!

Up On The Sun (1985)
The music on this disc is a far cry from the first album. Somehow the band manages the feat of making the tunes fast paced yet beautifully textured at the same time. Jingly-jangly guitars permeate the songs, the bass lines are strong, and the lyrics run the gamut from the ridiculous ("Swimming Ground", "Buckethead") to the engagingly poetic (title track, "two rivers"). (JLM)

Out My Way (1986)
The only thing wrong with this 6-song EP is that it is too short. More brilliant Curt tunes with emphasis on a sped-up country sound. Includes a hilariously aggressive, fast-paced rendition of "Good Golly Miss Molly" which harks back to the earlier days of the band's musical development. (JLM)

Mirage (1987)
"Up On the Sun II", more or less. Perhaps more - I think the songs on this effort are tighter, catchier and more sincere than on the earlier album. The guitar lines are similar but more intricate, and the vocals are stronger. "I am a Machine" ranks as one of the goofiest songs ever written - one of my personal favorites and worth the cost of the CD alone. Listen to the pretty, classical guitar on "the wind and the rain," the country-bop tune "get on down", then head to the end of the disc for the hard-rocking, fast-paced boogie of "Liquified." Wow, them pups sure are versatile. (JLM)

Huevos (1987)
This album marks the so-called "ZZ-Top phase" of the meat puppets libretto. But while the screaming guitar, boogie bass, marching drums and macho vocals may sound like that particular brand of derivative country rock, once again the inventive lyrics distance them from the banality of other groups. No fancy red cars, 3-foot long beards or scantily-clad supermodels here. This is serious rock music delivered from the gut, intended to make you crack up. Try imitating Curt's voice on "Look at the Rain" or "I can't be counted on at all" yourself and you will see what I mean. Best to try it first in the shower or people will think you are totally nuts....(JLM)

Live In Montana (rec. 1988, rel. 1999)
A loose, ragged, out-of-control live set that perfectly captures the band's weird combination of awesome instrumental chops, willfully painful vocalizing, and wacked-out humor. Most of their best songs to this point crop up, and they're consistently loud and amusing ("Touchdown King"; "Lake Of Fire"; "I Can't Be Counted On"; the head-banging metal-fest "Automatic Mojo"), if occasionally just plain overdriven ("Liquified"). But they often fall into doing goofy, insipid country-western cover tunes, most of which are flat-out annoying ("Cotton Candy Land"; "Dough Ray Mi," with wild digital delay noisemaking by Curt). And the record ends with a series of flakey, incoherent jams, staggering between smutty, deranged disco ("S.W.A.T. (Get Down)"), yet more sloppy, half-shouted punk-metal ("Attacked By Monsters"; "Party Till The World Obeys") and off-key joke country (Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou"), some juvenile name-calling directed at the audience, and finally a trio of over-enthusiastic heavy metal cover tunes (the plodding "The Small Hours"; Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and "Sweet Leaf"). The record's so roughshod you might not be able to take it. But live and barely rehearsed, the effortless interplay between Curt's sparkling, arpeggiated leads and Cris' awesomely speedy, popping bass lines is even more impressive ("Maiden's Milk"). (JA)

Monsters (1989)
If "Huevos" marks the ZZ-top phase, I suppose this could represent the "Van Halen" phase... Well, Van Halen could sound like this if they didn't hire such bozos to write their lyrics and sing the vocals. This disc kicks major butt, from the opening yelp of "Attacked by Monsters" (and Kissing Dogs!) to the hypnotic foot-stomping riff of "the void" or the anthemic "Party Till the World Obeys." First-class "heavy metal" with a twist on lyrical content that only the Meat Puppets could provide. (JLM)

No Strings Attached (1990)
A fairly well-done compilation album, despite complaints from the band. The chosen songs give a good representation of the range of styles of Meat Puppets' music during the pre-major label period. A good deal for the money with 24 songs (74 minutes). (JLM)

Forbidden Places (1991)
First album on a major record label, and it shows in the production. Nearly perfect, from the opening burst of "Sam" (vocals spit out so fast your head will be spinning) to the "Monsters"-style metallic tunes ("Nail it Down", "No longer Gone", "Popskull", the title tune) to the trademark goofy ("Whirlpool", "Open Wide", "Another Moon") and thoughtful ("This Day") rockers to a country spoof ("That's How it Goes") and crazy country pickin' instrumental complete with midgets ("Six Gallon Pie"). Carefully controlled lunacy. Should have gone platinum! (JLM)

Too High To Die (1994)
- The album that almost made them popular - the hit single "Backwater" became a grunge-radio staple with its guitar hook and goofy lyric (but what else is new), and the record went gold at least. Probably their most solid effort to date, with the band's proficiencies on their respective axes reaching an all-time high. The multiply-layered guitars help too. Listen to some of the gems on this album ­ the brilliant distorted guitar hook of "station", the overpowering "violet eyes", the super-fast nihilistic anthem "We Don't Exist", the groovy "Shine", or the reworked version of "Lake of Fire" with cleaner vocals and tricky guitar picking (surprise ending to the album). No Modern Rock enthusiast should be without this record. (JLM)
- Well, there are a lot of solid rockers here - "Violet Eyes," "We Don't Exist," "Backwater" - but there's also some real tripe: "Roof With A Hole" sounds like a Garth Brooks reject, "Things" sounds just like the Blue Oyster Cult (no lie), while "Why?" is a painful pseudo-folk number that might even have worked if Curt could sing. The country-rock "Comin' Down" doesn't do much for me either, and the lyrics are random and meaningless - not bizarre, just arbitrary. Often enjoyable, but hardly a landmark work. (DBW)
A superb record that highlights everything that made the Puppets one of the key rock bands of their time, although I admit they're an acquired taste. (JA)

No Joke! (1995)
Just got this, I'm starting to get into it now. This one starts out with a bunch of pretty dark songs (after the characteristically silly single "Scum") and gradually lightens up. A couple tricks constitute new territory for the pups (real harmony, a song with cello and piano, echobox effects) but otherwise it's pretty standard meat pups fare (a good thing of course), with emphasis on a grungy sound. Highlights include a couple of very goofy Cris Kirkwood tunes ("cobbler" and "inflatable"), the grunge rockers "scum" and "poison arrow", and the chilling "head". Could definitely improve to 4 stars with more listening, let me get back to it now.....(JLM)

Golden Lies (2000)
Cris was out of the band at this point. (DBW)

Rise To Your Knees (2007)
Cris rejoined the band at this point. (DBW)

Sewn Together (2009)
I have no interest in the band at this point. (DBW)

Lollipop (2011)

Out of my way!

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