Meat Puppets II, by Meat Puppets
Suggested by Owen Pauling
Wikipedia informs me that the Meat Puppets’ first album, entitled Meat Puppets, was a collection of noisy hardcore with unintelligible vocals. This is their second album, the imaginatively titled Meat Puppets II, and it promises a much more nuanced experience that still retains their original frezy and fire.
Unfortunately, it’s not successful.
Meat Puppets II has a loose punk feel, all flab and shabby, with a low-rent production feel that smacks of scrunched crisp packets and empty Pot Noodles. There is some charm in it, but overall it feels rushed, and uncomplete. The drumming is never more than rudimentary, and the drummer himself is in dire need of a click track, as he increases and decreases the speed of his play at the whim of his personal muse.
Vocally, the Kirkwood brothers are best described as ‘peculiar.” Their reedy, off-key and asynchronous bawls aren’t exactly the sounds that dreams are made of, but again, there is something that makes you smile about such a seemingly amateur approach. It’s boosted by a certain quirkiness to the lyrics, a playfulness that’s bordering on the genuinely fun which sets it apart from the sounds it went on to influence.
Talking of which, there’s a definite grunge feel the Meat Puppets, in no small part driven by the standout track on the album, Plateau. This slow acoustic track was one of three that were covered by Nirvana on their MTV Unplugged show (on which they were joined by the Kirkwoods themselves). The other two tracks were Oh Me and Lake of Fire, but it’s Plateau that stuck out then, and it’s Plateau that sticks out now. It’s the oddness of the lyrics that clinches it, especially the key lines “There’s nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop / And an illustrated book about birds.”
There are a host of styles at play on this album. There’s a sense of country, a smidge of psychadelia, and a bushelful of harder rock and roll. There’s a couple of instrumental tracks on here, and they’re both surprisingly well crafted and mercifully short.
If, as Wikipedia suggests, this album is a departure from Meat Puppets’ more hardcore punk sound, I suppose I should be grateful. But departing from a warzone to land in a desert is not a noticeable improvement in your location. With its handcrafted chic and willfully ugly sound, I give Meat Puppets II a 4/10. As for Plateau, I can only add something I never thought I’d say under any circumstance… I prefer the Nirvana version.