Describe Meat Puppets here. Okay then, if you insist. This may be a little complicated though
The Meat Puppets are an Alternative Rock
and Cowpunk (a hybrid
of Punk Rock
and Country Music
, for those who couldn't guess from the name) band from Phoenix, Arizona who formed in The Eighties
. First formed as a Hardcore Punk
band in 1980 by the Kirkwood brothers (Curt and Cris, on guitar and bass, respectively) and drummer Derrick Bostrom (this being regarded as the "classic" lineup), they were noticed by and quickly signed to the famed SST label, founded by Black Flag
guitarist Gregg Ginn (and home to Black Flag
, Dinosaur Jr.
, Hüsker Dü
, Saint Vitus and numerous other well-regarded Alternative Rock
bands from the era). Their first EP and album were pretty typical (if somewhat noisier and less structured than usual) hardcore stuff
and kinda unrepresentative of the sound they'd become known for.
Sick of the loud-fast rules of Hardcore Punk
, they changed up their sound SIGNIFICANTLY
for their next album, Meat Puppets II
. Now heralded as a classic
, the record was well-received and set the tone for all their later albums. Throughout the rest of the decade, they released a string of records on SST that played with (but never completely abandoned) the sound they hit upon on II
, while also streamlining their production and either hardening (Out My Way
) or softening (Up On the Sun
) their overall sound. In 1989, after releasing Monsters
, they briefly broke up, but they re-formed in 1991 and signed to major label subsidiary London Records.
They achieved their highest level of commercial success in 1994, with the release of Too High To Die
, which contained the minor hit "Backwater". The biggest factor in their sudden (relative) success was Kurt Cobain
choosing to cover "Plateau", "Oh Me" and "Lake of Fire" (all from Meat Puppets II
) in Nirvana
's MTV Unplugged In New York
performance. This success didn't last though- The follow-up, No Joke!
, didn't sell nearly as well. The band's increased use of hard drugs and the failure of the album resulted in the band breaking up shortly afterwards.
The band reformed in 1999, with a new lineup composed of Curt, Kyle Ellison, Andrew Duplantis, and Shandon Sahm (incidentally, the son of Doug Sahm, the legendary Tex Mex fiddler/singer and leader of The Sir Douglas Quartet and Texas Tornados). This lineup relased Golden Lies
in 2000 before breaking up again
in 2002. In 2003 Cris was arrested for attacking a security guard with OWN baton. He went to prison for two years before being released. It looked like things were over for good after this...
In 2006, however, Curt asked fans on the band's MySpace
page if they were interested in having the classic lineup reform. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and rumors spread. The band proceeded to do just that, though original drummer Bostrom dropped out and his spot was filled by Ted Marcus. They released Rise To Your Knees
in 2007. They have released three more albums since then, with the most recent being Rat Farm
in 2013. As of 2009, Shandon Sahm is back as the drummer. In 2011, Curt's son Elmo joined the band as a rhythm guitarist on their tours.
Band members over time:
- Curt Kirkwood, guitar, vocals (1980-present)
- Cris Kirkwood, bass, vocals (1980-1996, 2006-
- Derrick Bostrom, drums (1980-1996)
- Troy Meiss, guitar (1994, touring member only)
- Kyle Ellison, guitar, vocals (1999-2002)
- Andrew Duplantis, bass, vocals (1999-2002)
- Shandon Sahm, drums (1999-2002, 2009-present)
- Ted Marcus, drums (2006-2009)
- Elmo Kirkwood, guitar (2011-present, touring member only)
- In A Car EP (1981)
- Meat Puppets (1982)
- Meat Puppets II (1984)
- Up On the Sun (1985)
- Out My Way EP (1986) (later expanded to a full album when remastered)
- Mirage (1987)
- Huevos (1987) (busy year for them!)
- Monsters (1989)
- Forbidden Places (1991) (their first major label debut, now out of print, sadly)
- Too High To Die (1994) (their most successful album commercially)
- No Joke! (1995)
- Golden Lies (2000)
- Rise To Your Knees (2007)
- Sewn Together (2009)
- Lollipop (2011)
- Rat Farm (2013)
Tropes that apply to The Meat Puppets:
- Alternative Rock: Cowpunk, Specifically. They're one of the key Alt-Rock bands of the 80s.
- Arizona: Where they're from. One of the very few relatively well-known bands to hail from there.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first couple releases were noisy, chaotic Hardcore Punk rather than the Cowpunk style they played later on.
- Hardcore Punk: On their first EP and album only.
- Hidden Track: Too High To Die has a rearranged version of "Lake Of Fire" hidden after silence at the end of the last track. Some copies had a sticker on the cover that ruined the surprise as a selling point, since Nirvana's cover of the song was popular around the same time.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Prevalent in their early hardcore material - it seems Darby Crash was an influence on Curt Kirkwood's vocal style at the time.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: The first album and EP are around 7, the later albums are mostly 3-5 (with parts of the albums from Monsters onwards going up to 6). Occasionally they drop down to only a 2.
- Motor Mouth: "Popskull" and "Sam"
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The 'Pups mix Punk Rock, Hardcore Punk, Psychedelic Rock, Country Music, Funk and sometimes HeavyMetal into their sound.
- New Sound Album: Meat Puppets II, all the way. They switched from Hardcore to Cowpunk and/or Alternative Rock. Most of their later albums are this as well, albeit to a lesser extent (they never really abandoned their signature sound, just played louder or softer variations of it).
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: The Kirkwood brothers both have this. "Lake of Fire" is a great example.
- Premature Encapsulation: Five years after Golden Lies, Curt Kirkwood included a song of that name on his solo album Snow.
- Psychedelic Rock: Definitely influenced by it, and some of their stuff basically qualifies. Partially responsible for making it hip for Alternative Rock bands to play it.
- Shout-Out: the title of Too High To Die was intended as a play on the Ramones album Too Tough To Die.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Cris Kirkwood, usually a backing vocalist, sings lead on "Inflatable", with Curt harmonizing with him for the chorus.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Their music was always pretty straightforward, though this is somewhat less true on later releases.
- Ur Example: Arguably a precursor of the Alternative Country movement of the 90s, though some other Cowpunk bands (Beat Farmers, Long Ryders, Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers) count as well in this case.
- Word Salad Lyrics: They're evocative though, even if they don't always make sense.