Legends of the American underground rock scene and catapulted into more mainstream attention after backing Nirvana on their MTV unplugged gig and album in 1993, songwriters Curt Kirkwood and Cris Kirkwood have been mainstays of the U.S. rock scene for years. Starting off as a hardcore band in the 80s, Meat Puppets evolved into a band that embraced others genres, most notably country and psychedelic rock, meaning that there’s always been more to them than the ‘alternative rock’ tag bestows. Let’s face it, genres are a necessary evil, used to describe a musical sound and attempt to give it some form of common identity for the reader, but sometimes pigeonholing bands into one neat little box fails to truly capture their musical output, so it is with Meat Puppets – yes they rock, beautifully so, but they also write with a country tinged Americana direction which enables their songs to be infinitely more expansive and appealing.

Opening track ‘The Warranty’ is a prime example of their enticing melodies – a stomping cross country driving tune, with gentle beats from Derrick Bostrom keeping the thing moving along whilst the guitars and bass of the Kirkwood brothers, also joined by another Kirkwood, Curt’s son Elmo on guitar, simultaneously pick out a rhythm and provide some gloriously fuzzed up echo – it’s pure psych-country rock of the highest order. ‘Nine Pins’ continues the country tinged escapades with Curt reflecting on the joy of escaping the city ‘’there’s a path, that’s not a road, no traffic through, no noisy highway” as the guitars keep the finger picking melodies pushing forward. ‘Unfrozen Memory’ manages to stick some kind of harmonium or harpsichord keyboard effects into the punked up country ambience, courtesy of new member keyboardist Ron Stabinsky, it’s a sound that on paper shouldn’t work, but somehow it still manages to convey that sense of the vast plains and open spaces Meat Puppet tunes always conjure up for me, after all they were from Arizona, which seemed like another universe to me as a teenager in the Manchester suburbs. The Kirkwood brothers have always been equally influenced by hardcore punk and the gentle melodies of The Byrds, Neil Young and Gram Parsons, so it’s no surprise that ‘Nightcap’ juggles these sounds with gorgeous harmonies giving way to a heavier chorus which never loses sight of its melodic path. ‘Vampyr’s Winged Fantasy’ harks back to their earlier hardcore days with a fast paced distortion led verse, but in the Kirkwood brothers’ hands there’s always a delicate vocal harmony to balance it all, before a hell-raising guitar solo unfurls its squalling brilliance.

Now on their fifteenth album, after breaking up and reconvening several times throughout their often turbulent career, and reunited in the original Meat Puppets line up for the first time in over twenty years, ‘Dusty Notes’ proves that Meat Puppets have well and truly their status as the trailblazers of the U.S. alternative guitar scene. A triumphant comeback.

Meat Puppets – Dusty Notes out 8th March 2019 (Megaforce Records)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.