Curt Kirkwood--guitar, vocals; Cris Kirkwood--bass, vocals; Derrick Bostrom--drums
Following their appearance with Nirvana on MTV's Unplugged, Cris and Curt Kirkwood, the fabulous freak brothers who are the Meat Puppet's nucleus, found themselves with a whole new audience for their wild brand of puppet theater in the '90s. Today, their surprising combination of slammin' psychedelia and twangin' hillbilly punk rock sounds amazingly timeless; of course it's also in perfect synch with the tripped-out history of San Francisco's Fillmore where they seem to have soaked up some of the vibe and channeled it into nothing less than a definitive set for themselves.
As first-wave western punkers, the Meat Puppets' shredding/psychedelic style was an anomaly in the circle of their SST contemporaries like the Minute Men, Husker Du and Sonic Youth. Starting out as a hardcore band then bending themselves into something more adventurous, the Meat Puppets were the longhairs in the crowd, the guys who took LSD and smoked weed and painted their album covers with bright rainbow hues while the rest of the underground scene did its speedcore or robot/techno things.
They nevertheless found a following among those less into the scene's trends and more in it for the music: their audience was the crowd who didn't mind guitar leads, distortion and sometimes literally jazzed-up chord structures challenging the punk rock mix. There are even times when the Meat Puppets' sound has more in common with the fusion of the '70s than the new wave of their day, but make no mistake, the Meat Puppets could play fast, were unquestionably punk and totally rocked. This set's "Never to Be Found" and "Up on the Sun" are prime examples of what they were capable of at their very best, wringing out sunbursts of sound from the tight but still freestyle jams.
Touring in support of the album Too High to Die (the title says it all, really) most of this set's material comes from that record's wending and winding selections, their focus on Curt's psychedelic guitar lines, as on "Violet Eyes." "Up on the Sun," from the band's release of the same title, helped earn them their "punk Grateful Dead" reputation, as did their reliance on American roots music to fill out the space jams. "Lake of Fire," (made famous by Nirvana, originally from the Meat Puppets' second album) has just the right measure of some of that country stomp. Close and rootsy harmony crops up on "I Can't Be Counted On," before the meanderings of "Sexy Music" and a rousing chorus of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" just about wraps up this set of more than 20 songs--and not an ounce of fat on 'em. So eat up, Meat Puppets fans, and rock on brothers, rock on.