Cobain-approved country punks
Phoenix, Arizona’s Meat Puppets sounded tremendously deviant back in 1983, when they confounded hardcore protocols by making a kind of country record, Meat Puppets ll. The curious thing is that even now, when hybrids of alternative rock and roots music have become commonplace, the best Meat Puppets songs still sound unassimilable. Classic Puppets catalogues the band’s first decade, from scrofulous punks to more conventional rockers (their entire ’90s output is omitted for contractual reasons, but it may as well have been aesthetic ones). There’s a good argument, actually, for bypassing Classic Puppets and investing in Meat Puppets II and 1985’s Up On The Sun, since all the best songs figure on them. Here’s the flaky magic of the band: songs which add stoned punk nihilism and a meandering sense of melody to country archetypes, with Curt Kirkwood’s groggy vocals drifting in and out of tune. Kurt Cobain may have booked the Meat Puppets a place in the rock pantheon by collaborating with them on their MTV Unplugged appearance. Nevertheless, their legacy remains pleasingly?and sometimes infuriatingly?awkward.