Meat Puppets – [Album]

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Hope and belief, particularly when combined in a desperate mind, can be potentially intoxicating things. For example, when the Kirkwood brothers reunited under the Meat Puppets moniker and released Rise To Your Knees in 2007, it felt and (at the time) sounded like they had arrived – again. The songs sounded pretty good and, because it had been so long since anything bearing the band's name had even held a candle to the dynamism they once possessed (about eleven years prior), the hopeful (including me – to be honest) decreed that the Meat Puppets had come back from the abyss unscathed and, incredibly, done it at the top of their game – as if they'd never left.

One listen through Sewn Together illustrates just how twisted by hope those sentiments were though. While the songs on Rise To Your Knees were perfectly respectable and a decided improvement over the designer impostor, four-man line-up Curt Kirkwood christened “Meat Puppets” in the late Nineties, Sewn Together illustrates right away that calling its predecessor Rise To Your Knees was apt; on that record, they'd reassembled the pieces but they hadn't yet fallen back into their groove.

Comparatively speaking, the band's refurbished power is apparent here from the opening title track. Right from the get-go, a permutation of the Meat Puppets' vintage acid-touched reflection is evident in Curt Kirkwood's skippity-playful vocal melody and the folksy, only-slightly-off-center instrumental backing that is remarkably tight yet still manages to conjure unusual psychedelic images with a distinctly countrified bent. These are the elements that long-time fans will recognize and, like a hazy flashback ten years after the last time you dropped a tab, are both comforting and disconcerting all at once.

From there, the band touches on most every base that fans could hope for. The Kirkwoods flex their instrumental chops and push the proceedings into the stratosphere with “Blanket Of Weeds” and dance their vaunted two-step up on the sun in “I'm Not You” before cooling their heels with some light but melancholy introspection in “Sapphire.” This is, of course, all ground that the Meat Puppets have covered before in their fractured, thirty-year career, but not in easily half that time has it sounded so sure or surreal. It's the magical combination of those two elements that has always been one of the most appealing factor to the Pups' music; there is always a pattern and path in place, but the band's ability to skew it slightly and find a different, abstract and exciting plain is the promise that always hooks listeners and that's exactly what happens here too.

So are the Meat Puppets “back?” This is the sort of band that the verdict for such a question will always be out on. Realistically, they're never going the be the band that made Meat Puppets II again; they've come too far and grown too much. Going back to that ground would probably incite confusion and a wall of bitter complaints – but they're certainly back to the faculties that previously yielded Up On The Sun and Huevos and that's a pretty damned good place to be.


Meat Puppets official website/myspace


Sewn Together is out now on Megaforce Records. Buy it here on Amazon .

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