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Music / Meat Puppets

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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 '80s. 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, Huevos, Monsters) or softening (Up On the Sun, Mirage) 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, 2018-)
  • Troy Meiss, guitar (1994, touring member only)
  • Kyle Ellison, guitar, vocals (1999-2002)
  • Andrew Duplantis, bass, vocals (1999-2002)
  • Shandon Sahm, drums (1999-2002, 2009-2018)
  • Ted Marcus, drums (2006-2009)
  • Elmo Kirkwood, guitar (2011-present, touring member only from 2011-2018)
  • Rob Stabinsky, keyboards (2017-present, touring member only in 2017)


  • 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)
  • Dusty Notes (2019)

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.
  • Band of Relatives: All but the Golden Lies era is a Type 1. The brothers Kirkwood made up 2/3 of the band in the original line up. For their current line up, they are joined by Curt's son Elmo, as a rhythm guitarist.
  • Cover Album: The 2023 live compilation Camp Songs collects cover versions from between 1991 and 1995, largely focusing on folk and country material.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first couple releases were noisy, chaotic Hardcore Punk rather than the Cowpunk style they played later on.
  • Face on the Cover: Too High To Die has a picture of Curt Kirkwood on the cover, albeit a pink-tinted, overexposed photo where the top half of his face is deliberately obscured. Otherwise they've largely put artwork designed by Curt on their covers, rather than depictions of any members.
  • Genre Mashup: The 'Pups mix Punk Rock, Hardcore Punk, Psychedelic Rock, Country Music, Funk and sometimes HeavyMetal into their sound.
  • Hardcore Punk: On their first EP and album only.
  • He's Back!: In 2017, Derrick Bostrom briefly rejoined the Meat Puppets when they were inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, making it the first time the original lineup had performed together in over 20 years. He would rejoin fully in 2018 after Shandon Sahm moved to Amsterdam.
    • Sahm himself would count, as he returned to the band after Ted Marcus left in 2009.
  • Hidden Track: some editions of Too High To Die had 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. Digital versions of the album have the "Lake of Fire" remake as its own, listed track.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: The 'Pups actively sought this in their early days. Here's a list of the various drugs they were on when they made their first five albums.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Prevalent in their early hardcore material - it seems Darby Crash was an influence on Curt Kirkwood's vocal style at the time.
  • Lighter and Softer: Meat Puppets II saw them abandon their original hardcore sound. The next album, Up On The Sun, downplayed their punk roots even further, in favor of a more folk/psychedelic sound.
  • Motor Mouth: "Popskull" and "Sam"
  • 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).
    • Though their style didn't totally change, Golden Lies notably has a few tracks where they flirted with Rap Rock - songs like "Take Off Your Clothes" had Curt experimenting with a rap-influenced, more rhythm-based vocal style. The genre hadn't really been touched upon before or since, which might have something to do with the fact that Golden Lies wasn't originally going to be a Meat Puppets album.
  • No Title: In A Car was originally meant to be untitled, hence the front cover only having the band's name for text: Fans started referring to the EP by the name of its first song, in order to avoid confusion with the self-titled album. It caught on enough that it now appears in most discographies of the band under that title, and members of the band themselves have referred to it that way in interviews.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: The Kirkwood brothers both have this. "Lake of Fire" is a great example. Curt has said that while recording Up On The Sun he tried to avoid singing with emotion.
  • Premature Encapsulation: Five years after Golden Lies, Curt Kirkwood included a song of that name on his solo album Snow. It was later confirmed that the song was an outtake from the Golden Lies album that he had decided to revisit.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: Curt Kirkwood's bizarre vocal style on the first record. A Sputnik reviewer once described it as " angry downs old fat redneck dude who is pissed that he pissed his draws". And that isn't even too big of an exaggeration.
  • 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. Just check out this example from Too High To Die:
    The horizon breaks to pieces
    And the mainline is the twilight
    And the giant net has a perfect window
    Passage through has the ticket screaming
    I want a mind, I'll tell you what I find
    No severed goddess hand, no plaster in my eye
    No picture of a lamb, no goddess hand have I