Meat Puppets: “Down”

Photo by Jaime Butler

Twenty years ago, the name “Meat Puppets” was a name only heard in select circles. The Arizona band–featuring brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood and Derrick Bostrom–had moderate success in the ’80s, releasing a string of  albums that split the difference between hardcore punk, country, and psychedelia. In other words, it wasn’t exactly a sound that had “mainstream success” written all over it, but the band had a notable fan: Kurt Cobain. When he decided to cover three Meat Puppets songs for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged special in 1993, it catapulted Meat Puppets to new heights. Their 1994 album Too High To Die sold 500,000 copies and the trio undertook a massive sold-out tour with Stone Temple Pilots.

But as any Meat Puppets fan can attest, the band has gone through many life cycles. With the gigantic success came drug addiction and a break-up in 1996. Three years later, the band reconvened with Shandon Sahm–Sir Doug’s son–taking over drumming from Bostrom. The Meat Puppets broke up again in 2002, only to reform in 2006, this time in Austin. Since then, the band has become a local staple, releasing three albums with number four, Rat Farm, out April 16.

Even with all the stops and starts, the brothers Kirkwood soldier on. With Sahm and Curt’s son Elmo joining in, Rat Farm takes the shape of “real blown-up folk music,” in the words of Curt, and it’s hard to dispute that assessment. Rock, folk, reggae, and punk are all thrown together–sometimes in the same song–and the album proves that the band will follow whatever path it chooses. On “Down,” Curt sings about his other medium–painting–and the metaphor sticks: The Meat Puppets might have a few coats of paint on them, but they’re no worse for the wear.

You can catch the Meat Puppets on April 16 at Waterloo Records, starting at 5 pm.

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