Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Creative and influential rock from the Meat Puppets

I have a friend who is a big Meat Puppets fan. I didn’t discover this until I told him I liked “Too High to Die” and he nearly punched me in the face. Apparently, there is some schism between fans of early Meat Puppets and fans of their latter day work. Their early work was raw and unpolished, but sparkled with the risk-taking creativity of young musicians. The older music has a little more studio polish and is a bit more crafted. Some fans of the old school work seem to consider this selling out.

It was some time before I figured out that's a dude in the pretty dress.

I missed all this because I was never a fan of the old stuff. Not that I disliked it. No one ever played it for me. I came upon “Too High to Die” in the library and vaguely remembered one of the tracks from the smattering of college radio play it got. I picked it up and though I liked the sound, I was blown away by the quality of the songwriting.

I guarantee you have heard at least one of their songs. Kurt Cobain was a fan and performed ‘Lake of Fire’ (with Puppets Cris and Curt Kirkwood) on MTV Unplugged. Cobain became a fan when he saw them opening for Black Flag. So you know Henry Rollins is a fan as well. “Too High to Die” was produced by Butthole Surfers guitarest Paul Leary. So the Puppets have attracted the attention of some of the coolest guys in the business. Here’s why.

  • Violet Eyes – A dirty and powerful guitar riff drives this song. It’s a great track #1 for this disc.
  • Never To Be Found – A high-energy jangly groove with nice fat harmonies and fascinating lyrics. “Sparks fly from their eyes. Birds fly from their mouths. Echoing off this procession is a sound never to be found.” Stick around for the great transition about 3 ½ minutes in.
  • Severed Goddess Hand – This track reminds me of some early R.E.M., particularly the backing vocals. Again, I like the vocals. They are cool to listen to even when you don’t understand what they’re about. And you won’t.
  • Roof with a Hole – I want to hear someone with a thunderous voice like B.B. King cover this song. The song is fantastic and bluesy but honestly, I don’t think Kirkwood’s voice does it justice. If I had a blues band, I would hire some badass to sing and we would cover this song.
  • Backwater – If you’ve only heard the Puppets perform one song, this is most likely it. This was their highest charting song (#42 on the Billboard Hot 100) and radio played it for a minute. This was the song I remembered and the reason I picked up this album.

Somehow giant, over-the-top commercial success has eluded the Puppets and probably always will. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because these guys are brilliant songwriters and accomplished players and they deserve some of the recognition and sweet rewards that kind of success gets you. It’s good because their appetite for chemical recreation is legendary and a big, heaping dose of money might just kill them.

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March 25, 2010 - Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Popular, Rock

2 Comments »

  1. Nice review of an under-rated gem. I’m a fan of the early stuff.

    Comment by The Ripple Effect | March 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks, mate. I have never understood why these guys never got over the hump. Hopefully, some folks who never listened to them will give this one a spin.

    Comment by missedmusic | March 27, 2010 | Reply


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