Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Meat Puppets

  • Meat Puppets [SST EP, 1981] B
  • Meat Puppets II [SST, 1984] A-
  • Up on the Sun [SST, 1985] B+
  • Out Our Way [SST EP, 1986] B+
  • Mirage [SST, 1987] C+
  • Huevos [SST, 1987] A-
  • Monsters [SST, 1989] A-
  • No Strings Attached [SST, 1990] A
  • Forbidden Places [London, 1991] Choice Cuts
  • Too High to Die [London, 1994] *
  • No Joke! [London, 1995] Neither
  • Live in Montana [Rykodisc, 1999] Neither
  • Rise to Your Knees [Anodyne, 2007] Choice Cuts

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Meat Puppets [SST EP, 1981]
These Phoenix boys not only realize L.A. punk's no-wave proclivities in brief, doomy noise songs that sound like DNA meeting the Marx Brothers, they cover "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds." And include a dancy lyric sheet featuring lines like "You are like children in the marketplace/Shouting to your playmates" and "We get stones like it's going out of style." None of which they go so far as to pronounce over or under the hardcore roar. B

Meat Puppets II [SST, 1984]
Alone with various strange gods (is there another kind?) in the wide open spaces of his psyche, Arizonan Curt Kirkwood has stumbled upon a calmly demented country music that does more to revitalize the dubious concept of "psychedelic" than California suburbia's whole silly infatuation with the late '60s. He conflates the amateur and the avant-garde with a homely appeal bicoastalists would give up their nonexistent roots for. Rarely if ever has incipient schizophrenia sounded like such a natural way to go. A-

Up on the Sun [SST, 1985]
Furious negativist then, goofy nature mystic now, Curt Kirkwood is the David Thomas of endearing sloppiness. The tunes unfold loosely and sweetly, with Curt's guitars not so much chiming as chattering in a nonchalantly unstylish take on neofolk lyricism. But the music's charms are a little too flaccid to hold up the most unabashedly lysergic worldview yet to emerge from postpunk. B+

Out Our Way [SST EP, 1986]
In a time when EPs register microdistinctions among white bohemians, not to mention professionals, this is one piece of product that's more than a holding action in musical strength and commercial strategy. It's a departure, toward a less spacy, more bottomy hardcore-gone-folkloric. It covers "Good Golly Miss Molly" at a speed approximating that of the original--which was considered fast in its time, believe me. B+

Mirage [SST, 1987]
At their most unhinged these space potatoes always had the charm of true seekers. Who cared if they were soft in the head--their tentative lyricism conveyed the sense of endless discovery that's the great blessing of soft-headedness. This time, they've found what they were looking for, and it's hard to believe it took them so long. C+

Huevos [SST, 1987]
The rebound from the almost meaningless Mirage is right there in the title. This one not only means "balls" in Spanish, which translates "punch" in the intractably sexist dialect of rock and roll. It also means "eggs"--in fact, it mainly means eggs. And while the lyrics do tend to glimmer away like heat rising off asphalt, they start from an everyday place anyone can see. Sometimes it's funny: "Whoa, crazy, got myself a job." Sometimes it's pissed: "You said you'd make it grow/ You said you'd make it green." Sometimes it's cheerful: "I got a shirt that cost a dollar twenty-five/ I know I'm the best-dressed man alive." And sometimes it's goddamn euphoric: "This is paradise." A-

Monsters [SST, 1989]
Supposedly a combination of their two 1988 albums (a mirage omelet, thanks a lot), this is really the guitar-god record Curt Kirkwood always had in him--on all but a couple of cuts the arena-rock bottom that's an interview fantasy for those who haven't caught them on a ZZ Top night powers his chunky riffs and psychedelic axemanship. What'll keep them from turning into plutonium is the utterly unmacho vocals, brother harmonies making even "Party Till the World Obeys" and the one that begins "Tie me up/Get it right" seem like critiques of power, which is what they are--psychedelic in the nicest way yet again. A-

No Strings Attached [SST, 1990]
"I got a shirt that cost a dollar twenty-five/I know that I'm the best-dressed man alive," sings the same goof--well, sounds more like his brother, but only their mom cares--who gets lost on the freeway/in the breezeway and escapes Satan's lake of fire in a swimming hole that sounds like heaven itself. How did music so resilient bubble out of the desert wastes? How did music so sweet top hardcore mess? No one ever accused them of reliability, but in this astutely compiled account, having established their noisy principles and done "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" as Sid's "My Way," they never touch the ground. Amerindie at its most blessed. A

Forbidden Places [London, 1991]
"Six Gallon Pie" Choice Cuts

Too High to Die [London, 1994]
if tunes were everything, they'd be famous ("Comin' Down," "Shine") *

No Joke! [London, 1995] Neither

Live in Montana [Rykodisc, 1999] Neither

Rise to Your Knees [Anodyne, 2007]
"Light the Fire" Choice Cuts

See Also