close your eyes
 
[music, albums]

XIX: 1983 Meat Puppets - II


Meat Puppets - II

The contenders
1983 has been the most difficult year for me to choose a favourite from yet. At the time I did my military service and wasn't listening to anything featured in the poll. One reason was that I didn't have the cash to buy music. In the discotheques they played one song over and over: Nena's Neue Deutsche Welle smash hit 99 Luftballons. There have been a couple of good albums which I purchased later though but none was really outstanding. R.E.M.'s first sound longplay Murmur established a new voice in American alternative folk-rock but lacks in the urgency department. The Durutti Column released the new agey Another Setting, probably their most consistent album which is a little too much on the easy-listening side for me though. I also listened to some albums I forgot in the poll like Police's swan song Synchronicity which again is probably their best but still too hackneyed as the whole band. Brian Eno's airspace ambient Apollo was okay too but didn't grip me at all. Finally I realised that Yoko Ono's and John Lennon's posthumous album Milk and Honey was released in January 1984 and therefore per se excluded.

The cover
The first thing striking about the Meat Puppets second effort is the colourful cover art. It has been made by the band and it reveals that they were on a special trip when recording the album. I see a red buffalo on a green pasture with the blue night sky around. The Meat Puppets hail from Tempe near Phoenix, Arizona. Already with the cover they allude to three aspects which give an idea of their music. Animalistic force, rural America and psychedelic consciousness.

The music
Genre wise it has been described as cowpunk. The seemingly absurd fusion of punk rock with American roots music like country and bluegrass. Later on there have been other bands exploiting this fascinating approach further like e.g. Camper Van Beethoven but they never achieved the same degree of originality and innocence as the Meat Puppets, how could they? There is an immediate amateur lo-fi feeling to their music which really is in the spirit of do it yourself punk. When they play countryish tunes they can play them really fast (Magic Toy Missing). Like on speed, or ecstasy. They are also the masters of the slow intense sparkling two minutes ballad. No time wasted. Twelve songs. 30 minutes. Listen to the guitar instrumental Aurora Borealis, the polar light phenomenon as seen from the Arizona desert and judge for yourself.

I tried neither to mention Nirvana's Unplugged to which they contributed the most harrowing three songs (from II) nor Cris Kirkwood's (the bassist and brother of the singer/guitarist) drug addiction with some grave recent consequences here but I didn't quite succeed.

The 7 bonus tracks on the re-release shouldn't be forgotten as they are worth it for once. They only add a little more than 18 minutes which is good as well.

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XIX was this post.


 





 
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