One of the best bands to come out of the American indie underground of the 1980s.
Meat PuppetsBrooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249) Map it $12
Curt Kirkwood - Vocals/Guitars
Cris Kirkwood - Bass/Vocals
Shandon Sahm - Drums
Elmo Kirkwood - Guitars
Original. Influential. Uncompromising. Unpredictable. Not very many rock bands warrant being linked to such descriptions, but the Meat Puppet certainly do. With a career that has spanned four decades, the Meat Puppets have witnessed countless musical movements and fads come and go, but despite it all, have stuck to their guns and retained a dedicated fan base. Along the way, the Puppets have made admirers out of some of rock's most renowned names - most obviously Kurt Cobain, who personally invited the Puppets to appear on Nirvana's classic performance, MTV Unplugged in New York - and have amassed a canon of timeless songs ("Plateau," "Lake of Fire," "Up on the Sun," "Backwater," etc.).
Formed in 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona, the original Puppets line-up consisted of singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood, bassist Cris Kirkwood, and drummer Derrick Bostrom. Throughout the decade, the group steadily issued classic indie recordings, including 1984's Meat Puppets II, 1985's Up on the Sun, and 1987's Huevos, and were constantly criss-crossing the States, becoming a must-see live act in the process.
Jumping to a major label in the early '90s, the band saw their greatest commercial success in 1994, thanks to the aforementioned Nirvana Unplugged broadcast/album release (in which three Puppets classic were performed - "Plateau," "Oh, Me," and "Lake of Fire"), and a gold-certified album, Too High to Die, which spawned the MTV/radio hit, "Backwater."
Although the original Puppets line-up would splinter in 1996, Curt kept the band afloat with a new line-up for a spell, during which time he enlisted the aid of drummer Shandon Sahm. The Kirkwood brothers eventually reconciled in 2006, resulting in two more critically acclaimed albums - 2007's Rise to Your Knees and 2009's Sewn Together - before Sahm signed on once more, resulting in such modern day Puppets classics as 2011's Lollipop and 2013's Rat Farm. And recently, Curt's son, Elmo, joined the band as second guitarist.
"It's going to be real blown up folk music," explains Curt about Rat Farm. "I tried to write stuff that would be kind of easy to learn and easy to play, try and get it to stand on its own that way - just the chords and the melodies, and play it kind of straight. I think that was the guiding boundaries that I gave myself."
"I didn't want to get too complicated. It was one of those things where a lot of times, in the past especially, Cris would go, 'Well, that's all there is? Let's put a prog rock part in the middle.' But I tried to hold it off as much as I could. I'm a lot of times trying to do that - be as simple as possible - because it tends to make something stick for me a little better, because I don't have to think about it that much when I'm playing it. And that I might actually wind up playing it live at some point, which is what I'm trying to do. I made it a point to do that."
Additionally, the band's entire career was recounted in book form around this time, with the release of the must-read Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, which retells the band's entire history. Assembled by journalist/Puppets fan Greg Prato, the book features recollections from band members past and present, as well as such admirers as Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Peter Buck (REM), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), and Henry Rollins (Black Flag/Rollins Band), among countless others, and pulls no punches in telling the band's wild and wooly tale.
This far into their career, the Meat Puppets continue to offer inspired live performances and strong recordings, which match up extremely well to their earlier classics. And as evidenced by Rat Farm and their upcoming live dates, you'll soon have the opportunity to experience the power of the mighty Meats yourself.