I'm sure I'm not the only one who picked up this utterly fantastic album shortly after listening to Nirvana
performance, in which Kurt Cobain
had the Kirkwood brothers (two-thirds of the Meat Puppets
) come on stage to play bass and guitar while he sang three remarkable songs, and, somewhere in the middle of them, mentioned that they were all off his guests' second album.
All I can say is:
1. Split Myself in Two
2. Magic Toy Missing*
5. Aurora Borealis*
6. We're Here
8. New Gods
9. Oh, Me
10. Lake of Fire
11. I'm a Mindless Idiot*
12. The Whistling Song
* Instrumental track
Their sound is unquestionably unique. This record was composed and recorded in the Pheonix area of Arizona, and it shows. I lived in New Mexico for four years, and nothing brings back the memories like this album, even though I'd never heard of the Meat Puppets when I lived out there. The majesty of the southwest deserts are indelibly branded in the meandering guitar work of Curt Kirkwood. The azure blue sky of the area (a part of nature increasingly found only in areas of our our country such as Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) shines through on beautiful instrumentals such as Aurora Borealis. The expanses of dried sandstone riverbeds and cacti plains make themselves known in the plodding, pleasant pace some of the tracks have. The swiftness of the desert animals is manifest in the breakneck hardcore punk-esque tempo of other songs.
Make no mistake, this is most certainly not a hardcore album. According to Derrick Bostrom, the drummer, the Meat Puppets became disenchanted with the hardcore scene when they began to play in venues outside their hometown, where their set opener "The King and I" and long hair immediately earned them spit and beer cans flung in their direction by the punkers in the audience.1
So, logically, they started playing country.
Curt's voice was, at this point, used to screaming--not singing. As such, it's a little shakey, and, quite frankly, this adds a lot. It gives the songs a more honest feel--no doubts as to whether or not he sings his own songs can be raised, to say the least. Sort of like ol' Zimmie or Neil Young.
Recorded in 1983 in two sessions (one for instrumentals, one for vocals), Meat Puppets II was released in '84 on SST Records (SST 019). That was quite a year for good music in general and SST in particular, what with this, Zen Arcade, and, of course, Double Nickels on the Dime.
Meat Puppets II was re-released in 1999 by Rykodisc (RCD 10467). Aside from the original content, the new version also contains:
14. I'm Not Here
15. New Gods
17. What to Do
18. 100% of Nothing
19. Aurora Borealis
Teenager(s) was a turning point song, created between their first and second albums. Actually two songs joined together, it is a perfect microcosm for their early music as a whole. Recorded to be included on a flexidisc for a magazine, it starts out fast paced and screaming, and then shifts to a wandering instrumental after twenty seconds or so. The other bonus tracks are taken from the same recording session, including some early versions of songs heard on the rest of the disc.
It's also an enhanced cd; there's a Quicktime format movie which was a 'promotional' version of New Gods. No band footage is shown; instead, it's a fast tour through what appears to be a town in Arizona. A nice little addition, IMHO.
Also included are extensive liner notes, including an essay, a couple of reviews from '84, and some recording notes from the drummer. Plus lyrics.
1. Most info in this paragraph is paraphrased from the liner notes to the re-release. A lot of info came from those notes, in fact.