Despite a 30-plus year career and 14 studio albums, many have relegated the Meat Puppets to a footnote attached to the Grunge entry in the music encyclopedia, something amounting to “those guys that played with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged.” Over that time, though, brothers Curt and Chris Kirkwood (and on some recent tours, Curt’s son Elmo) have continued to develop a western-fried blend of genres, well past so many of their scene counterparts. Their latest, Rat Farm, stretches into a deep space haze, everything from reggae to prog rock fused into one intergalactic outsider art sculpture.
Those unfamiliar with the Kirkwoods’ idiosyncrasies might be thrown by the up-picked island groove that crops up in the midst of the opening title track. But the precedent for stoned country mind-wandering clarifies as the album progresses, classic rock licks thumbing through toking anthem “One More Drop” and the acoustic harmonies of “Sometimes Blue” recall Simon and Garfunkel riding horseback through the scrub.
This freewheeling warmth has been a part of Meat Puppets’ repertoire going back to their early ’80s origins, everything permeated with the smokey ease of weirdos like the Dead. Now into their 50s, the Kirkwoods don’t sound more settled in their weirdness, Rat Farm significantly brighter than Meat Puppets II.
The shimmering alt-country of “Time and Money” hits a particular sweet spot, Curt striving to keep sane and calm in a busy world. The jangly “Down” works off of a distorted guitar and tambourine, the Kirkwoods “chasing cats and rabbits” and seeing a “waterfall of color.” Though they certainly had friends in high, grungy places, Rat Farm is another example of how singular the Meat Puppets are, each new record sounding more like themselves than anything else. Even three decades after their debut, the Meat Puppets continue to find their groove in the deep, swirling ether.
Essential Tracks: “One More Drop”, “Sometimes Blue”, and “Time and Money”