Forgotten Band: Meat Puppets

The Meat Puppets, a band born in the heart of the American underground music scene, is a testament to the enduring spirit of rock and punk. The band’s remarkable journey, from their formation in the early 1980s to their influential role in alternative and psychedelic rock, showcases their resilience, innovation, and commitment to pushing musical boundaries.

The Birth of the Puppets

The story of the Meat Puppets begins in the hot and sprawling desert of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1980. Brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, both talented musicians, formed the band, initially joined by Derrick Bostrom on drums. The trio played raw, high-energy punk rock, marked by its relentless speed and aggression. This early incarnation of the Meat Puppets contributed significantly to the local punk scene, quickly earning a reputation for their electrifying live performances.

Meat Puppets (1982): A Raw Debut

In 1982, the Meat Puppets released their self-titled debut album, “Meat Puppets.” The album was a snapshot of a band steeped in punk energy, featuring songs like “Walking Boss” and “Melons Rising.” While the album received modest attention, it laid the foundation for the band’s evolving sound.

Meat Puppets II (1984): A Pivotal Moment

It was the release of their second album, “Meat Puppets II,” in 1984 that marked a pivotal moment for the band. This album displayed a notable shift from their punk roots toward a more eclectic and experimental sound. The incorporation of country, folk, and psychedelic elements into their music was a defining feature of this record. Tracks like “Magic Toy Missing” and “Lost” showcased the band’s willingness to experiment with various musical genres and create a unique sound.

The Enigmatic Nature of “Meat Puppets II”

“Meat Puppets II” is considered an enigmatic and iconic record in the alternative rock genre. The album’s blend of punk energy and psychedelic folk was unlike anything that was happening in music at the time. It was as if the Meat Puppets had created their own genre, giving birth to a subgenre that would later be described as “cowpunk.”

The Curt and Cris Dynamic

At the core of the Meat Puppets’ unique sound was the dynamic between the Kirkwood brothers. Curt, the older of the two, was the lead guitarist and vocalist. His guitar work, marked by intricate solos and a unique finger-picking style, became a defining feature of the band’s music. Cris Kirkwood played bass and provided backing vocals. Their brotherly synergy was an integral part of their musical success, and their seemingly telepathic connection allowed them to explore musical boundaries and engage in improvisational jam sessions during live performances.

The Flaming Lips Connection

One of the intriguing aspects of the Meat Puppets’ history is their connection to another iconic alternative rock band, The Flaming Lips. In 1993, Cris Kirkwood joined The Flaming Lips for their album “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart” and their hit single “She Don’t Use Jelly.” This collaboration marked a cross-pollination of talent between two influential bands, demonstrating the fluidity and interconnectedness of the alternative rock scene during that era.

The Peaks and Valleys

The Meat Puppets’ journey, like many in the music industry, was marked by both creative peaks and tumultuous valleys. Their third album, “Up on the Sun” (1985), is often regarded as one of their finest works. It further solidified their standing as pioneers of the alternative and indie rock movements.

The Nirvana Connection

The Meat Puppets gained a surge in popularity in the early 1990s when they were featured on Nirvana’s legendary “MTV Unplugged” session. Curt and Cris Kirkwood joined Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, performing a set of songs that included Meat Puppets classics like “Lake of Fire” and “Plateau.” This collaboration introduced the Meat Puppets to a wider audience and left an indelible mark on the history of MTV Unplugged sessions.

Challenges and Resilience

The band’s journey was also marked by personal and professional challenges. The Kirkwood brothers, particularly Curt, faced struggles with substance abuse and legal issues. In 2003, Curt Kirkwood was arrested for assault, and this period saw the Meat Puppets going on hiatus. However, their resilience and commitment to their music eventually led to a comeback.

A Storied Legacy

Throughout their career, the Meat Puppets continued to evolve and experiment. They released numerous albums, including “Huevos” (1987), “Monsters” (1989), and “Too High to Die” (1994). The latter included their most commercially successful single, “Backwater.”

The Meat Puppets Today

Today, the Meat Puppets continue to tour and record music. Curt and Cris Kirkwood have had their share of personal and professional ups and downs, but they remain committed to their art and the enduring legacy of the Meat Puppets.

Conclusion: The Legacy of the Meat Puppets

The Meat Puppets, with their blend of punk, alternative rock, country, and psychedelia, have left an indelible mark on the landscape of American rock music. Their pioneering spirit and unique sound have influenced countless bands and artists, making them a symbol of the innovative and eclectic nature of alternative rock. Whether they were upending musical conventions or pushing the boundaries of genre, the Meat Puppets remain a testament to the enduring power of creativity and the unyielding spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

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Author: guyute