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Meat Puppets

'94 was THE year for the Meat Puppets. First, their CD "Too High To Die," produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary, and containing the minor hit (but a hit nonetheless), "Backwater," sold 500,000 copies. That was more than the entire Meat Puppets catalog had sold to date. Next, the Kirkwood brothers, guitarist/vocalist Curt and bassist Cris, were invited by Kurt Cobain to appear on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged In New York for performances of "Plateau", "Oh Me" and "Lake Of Fire," all from "Meat Puppets II." Cobain's passionate and personal performance on "Lake Of Fire" became a cult favorite.

So the combination of "Too High To Die," "Blackwater" (the group's only charting single) and the Nirvana connection, took the Meat Puppets to the height of their popularity. But their story began over a decade earlier in Paradise Valley, AZ.

The Kirkwood brothers and drummer Derrick Bostrom launched the Meat Puppets in '80s. They had definite Punk leanings, while managing to incorporate Country, Thrash and psychedelic elements. The group took their name from the title of a song Curt wrote that appeared on the group's '82 self-titled debut for the legendary Punk label, SST.

'83 effort, "II," featured more stylistic diversity. Then the post-Punk got dumped. "Up On The Sun," released in '85, marked a major shift; less noise while displaying more intricate and melodic tendencies. Regularly, they took on jam-band traits (extended songs driven by lengthy guitar solos). The following year saw "Out My Way." While touring, Curt managed to get his finger caught in their van's door, breaking it. That took the group off the road and delayed the release of "Mirage" until '87. Less than six months later, the "off the cuff, recorded in one-take," "Huevos" (with Curt's Mexican flavored cover art) arrived. "Monsters," had the extended "Touchdown King" and "Flight Of The Fire Weasel." The '89 album turned out to be the Meat Puppets last for SST.

Not all groups aspire to sign with a major label. But groups that do usually make one or two albums on an indie before moving on. If a group is going to do it, the time to move is early. The Meat Puppets had been with SST for seven years. Their reputation rested on modest selling albums, listened to by young Cobains around the country, and brutal, small venue shows. Maybe their time had passed? Nah, not just yet.

While '91's "Forbidden Places" was a solid major label debut it was "Too High To Die" that resonated. But as so often happens, the group self-destructed. "No Joke," limped out in '95. Cris was a heroin addict given to erratic behavior if he was able to function at all. The CD became the original lineup's swan song for the decade.

The Meat Puppets' return took an odd course. Curt started the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra in the late '90s. But since no one had much interest in the Royals, they were renamed the Meat Puppets and released a few albums. Curt also showed up in a couple other groups and even issued a solo album, "Snow." Bostrom kept busy serving as the keeper/manager of the group's legacy.

Cris' addictions, a combination of shooting up and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, left him crazed and grossly overweight. An altercation with an elderly woman at a Phoenix post office on December 26th, '03, pushed him over the edge. It resulted in Cris getting clubbed by a security guard. As he attempted to leave the scene he was shot in the back. No doubt, the security guard felt Cris was still a threat. He survived but the downward spiral continued. Cris ran afoul of the law (drug arrests and parole violations) and wound up in prison - released in '05.

Out of the slammer, Cris met with his semi-estranged brother and the two decided to put the Meat Puppets back together (with drummer Ted Marcus). In the interim, Cris quit heroin, and Ben & Jerry's, shedding nearly all the weight he'd put on.

Their comeback set "Rise To Your Knees" arrived in '07. It was followed, two years later, by the appropriately titled "Sewn Together," the Meat Puppets' 12th album and their first effort for the Megaforce imprint. Shandon Sahm, who had been with the band during their "Golden Lies" era, returned on drums, replacing Marcus.

Keeping to their two year album release cycle "Lollipop" was followed by "Rat Farm." Curt Kirkwood described the latter as "real blown-out Folk music."

Taking a nostalgic turn, '19's "Dusty Notes," was the Meat Puppets first studio album to feature the original trio (the Kirkwood Brothers plus Bostrom) since '95's "No Joke!"
Meat Puppets Discography

Studio Albums:

1982 Meat Puppets
1984 Meat Puppets II
1985 Up On The Sun
1987 Mirage
1987 Huevos
1989 Monsters
1991 Forbidden Places
1994 Too High To Die
1995 No Joke!
2000 Golden Lies
2007 Rise To Your Knees
2009 Sewn Together
2011 Lollipop
2013 Rat Farm
2019 Dusty Notes

The Meat Puppets have three distinct styles: Post-Punk/pre-Grunge ("Meat Puppets" and "II"), Hippie Rock ("Up On The Sun") and post-Grunge ("Too High To Die").

In the latter mode, the group was at their commercial peak. With songs, "Never To Be," "Flaming Heart" and "Roof With A Hole," it could be argued they were at their creative zenith too. That "Backwater" was only a minor hit is confounding. Few songs are as lyrically strong, melodically effective with sonic brilliance. That it didn't race right up the charts begs the question "what does it take?"

The Meat Puppets early work shouldn't be overlooked. Their debut, and especially "II," have a jagged-edge appeal that's indisputable. Then there's Curt's high-pitched yet forceful warble that sounds like a post-Punk Geddy Lee. These are raw, emotional albums that clearly point the way to the coming Grunge wave. It's little wonder Nirvana's Kurt Cobain used them as a touchstone.

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