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Meat Puppets

Out of all of the bands that made SST Records a towering force in the American underground during the mid-'80s, Meat Puppets lasted the longest, surviving where other bands fell apart. Meat Puppets never had the dedicated following of Hüsker Dü or the Minutemen -- two fellow SST bands who played the same circuit as the Puppets -- but they were able to carve out a long career where other hardcore bands could not, because they always drew from conventional hard rock as well as punk. Not only did they play hard, loud, and fast, but they also had elements of the blues-rock of ZZ Top, the ambling folk-rock of the Grateful Dead, and Neil Young's country-rock and hard rock. As they grew older, the band matured musically, developing an accomplished instrumental technique and moving closer to the traditional hard rock that was always underneath their punk. But they never quite abandoned their punk roots, even when they briefly broke into the mainstream in the early '90s.

The core of Meat Puppets was Curt (guitar; born January 10, 1959) and Cris Kirkwood (bass; born October 22, 1960), a pair of brothers born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. As teenagers, the Kirkwoods played in local rock & roll bands, primarily playing mainstream rock and hard rock. After graduating from a Jesuit prep school, the brothers formed Meat Puppets in 1980 with drummer Derrick Bostrom. Unlike the Kirkwoods' earlier bands, the Meat Puppets were directly inspired by punk rock; they were so committed to keeping the music punk that they refused to rehearse.

A little over a year after their formation, Meat Puppets released their first EP, In a Car, on World Imitation. At this point in their career, the band was at its noisiest, playing furious hardcore with avant-garde leanings. Greg Ginn, the lead guitarist for Black Flag and the head of SST Records, heard the record and offered the Meat Puppets a contract with SST. In 1982, the band released their full-length eponymous debut album on SST, which continued in the experimental vein of their EP.

Meat Puppets didn't develop their own distinctive voice until their second album, Meat Puppets II, which was released in 1984. On Meat Puppets II, the band created a fusion of punk and country that sounded unlike anything else in the American underground. With their second album and constant touring, Meat Puppets began to cultivate a dedicated cult following across the U.S. that continued to grow throughout the rest of the decade. In 1985, the group released their third album, Up on the Sun, which earned them their first reviews in mainstream music publications. Up on the Sun also demonstrated that the band was beginning to streamline their sound, moving closer to traditional blues-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia. This shift toward conventional hard rock continued throughout the late '80s, as the band gradually sanded away their rougher punk edges.

After releasing an EP called Out My Way in 1986, Meat Puppets released two critically acclaimed albums -- Mirage and Huevos -- in 1987. By the release of Mirage, Meat Puppets had established themselves as college radio stars, as well as popular attractions on the American underground circuit. Monsters, their final album for SST Records, was released in 1989, and its heavy rock attack foreshadowed the approach the band would adopt in the following decade. The straightforward sound of Monsters wasn't greeted favorably by the band's cult following, and the record stiffed on college radio.

Following the weak reception of Monsters, Meat Puppets broke up. In 1991, they re-formed and signed a major-label deal with London Records. Before they recorded their first album for London, SST issued the compilation No Strings Attached in 1990. The following year, Forbidden Places, the group's major-label debut, appeared in the stores. Forbidden Places was neither a commercial nor underground success.

For two years after the release of Forbidden Places, Meat Puppets were relatively quiet, playing a couple of gigs every once in a while. In 1993, they re-emerged as an opening act on Nirvana's In Utero tour. Toward the end of the tour, Nirvana taped an appearance for MTV Unplugged, during which they covered three songs from Meat Puppets II with Meat Puppets themselves. The exposure on MTV Unplugged helped set the stage for the commercial breakthrough of the band's second major-label album, 1994's Too High to Die.

Released around the same time as MTV Unplugged originally aired, Too High to Die didn't gather much attention at first, but after Kurt Cobain's suicide in April, the record and its first single, "Backwater," began to move. This was due to radio's acceptance of "Backwater," but also to MTV's constant airings of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged. By the summer of 1994, "Backwater" was a genuine hit, climbing to number two on the album rock charts and just missing the pop Top 40. None of the other singles from Too High to Die performed quite as well, but the album was a success, becoming the group's first to go gold. Meat Puppets released No Joke!, their follow-up to Too High to Die, in the fall of 1995. However, this album received mediocre reviews and little airplay, and disappeared from the charts and radio a few months after its release.

Following this setback, the Pups effectively went on hiatus. Derrick Bostrom recorded a one-off EP of goofy, saccharine pop covers for the Amarillo label in 1996 under the name Today's Sounds; he subsequently took a job with a multimedia company, also overseeing both the band's website and Rykodisc's 1999 Meat Puppets reissue campaign. Cris Kirkwood, unfortunately, did not fare so well. With the influx of fame and cash, his drug problem had worsened during the No Joke! sessions, and in 1995, he married Michelle Tardif, whose own addictions and run-ins with the law sent things spiraling out of control. Tragedy struck in December 1996, when the Kirkwoods' mother died, and again in August 1998 when Tardif died of a drug overdose. After virtually disappearing for a short time, Cris began to sort out his addictions in rehab programs, and his attendant legal problems in court. Meanwhile, the band's label, London Records, was swallowed up by Universal in a corporate mega-merger.

An overloaded Curt Kirkwood had already relocated to Austin, Texas, prior to Tardif's death; there he formed a new outfit dubbed the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra with ex-Pariah members Kyle Ellison (guitar) and Shandon Sahm (drums; also the son of Doug Sahm), plus former Bob Mould bassist Andrew DuPlantis. Eventually, this group took over the Meat Puppets name (although neither Bostrom nor Cris Kirkwood was ever officially removed from the lineup). Curt secured a release from his prior contract and signed with Breaking, an Atlantic subsidiary. Golden Lies, Meat Puppets' first new album in five years, was released in the fall of 2000. Seven years later, after a lengthy struggle with substance abuse, Cris Kirkwood reunited with brother Curt and new drummer Ted Marcus for the release of Rise to Your Knees. Touring lasted through the end of 2007, while sporadic shows kept the bandmates busy in 2008.

They also returned to the studio that year, and their 12th studio effort, Sewn Together, was released in the spring of 2009. The band continued to stay busy, announcing that they would be performing Up on the Sun at the Animal Collective-curated All Tomorrow's Parties in 2011. They also continued to work on new material, and went into Spoon's HiFi Studio in Austin to work on their 13th studio album, Lollipop. It was released in April of 2011 by Megaforce Records. In 2013, Meat Puppets attempted to take a simplified approach for their 14th album, Rat Farm, and the Kirkwood brothers were joined by return drummer Shandon Sahm and Curt's son Elmo on guitar. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


I met one of the band members, must have been 1980 or so at Cass Lake in Michigan. I was about 12 years old. he was playing guitar at the beach. He seemed very cool
lazy drug addiction music or is it beyond that...beyon d acid...beyon d reality checks-me think so...
bobonitwit-h o w do you know about tone deaf ? are you a third rade teacher or sumpin-this is how drug addicts from AZ. dig !
Great name, pretty crummy music. Why do all the groups from this period think it was cool to have a tone deaf vocalist ?
Meat puppets awesome
In 1985, the group released their third album, Up on the Sun, which earned them their first reviews in mainstream music publications .

I bought Meat Puppets II based on an enthusiastic Rolling Stone review in 1984.
I prefer when Nirvana played, Lake of fire and Plateau. The puppets made the songs well though.
The brothers meat are so amazing!
These guys are great, but I guess you probably knew that already.

directly inspired by punk rock; they were so committed to keeping the music punk that they refused to rehearse.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of you life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works
Best band still touring. New record 'Rat Farm' drops in Spring. Aiming for April
Scum is an awesome tune with the loud rude guitar bends. I wish they had more stuff like that. If they do, PM me.
shiny bucket knows just what to do
forbiden places loved it
Rich kids on drugs from southern AZ.
I want to like them because Kurt told me so, but I just can't get into it. Strummy G C D C G A. every song. same
These guys are awesome!
love these kids, sorry bur Nervana turned me on, PS lighten up!!
If anyone is on Twitter I find it sad that this band has 20 followers. I have 67 for christ sake. @themeatpupp e t s go follow them. Gonna catch them for my 8th, 9th and 10th time in November
unless your a phish,dead,s t r i n g cheese incident fan you might agree with me that not every puppets is good because they are not.curt kirkwood like j. mascia is never going to comprimise and will continue putting out his vision,his music,his whatever-he' s not a dylan but the world needs the puppets...fe r sure.
good songs, bad drugs = mediocre results from these guys....too bad. So much potential. I guess that's what happens when you are brought up as rich idle american youth ....then again you can see that every day on tv.
was ''sewn together'' an attempt at mainstream ? my faves are '' too high to die'', '' up in the sun'' and '' huevos''
so many records-they grow on you like spanish moss-they are actually a perfect band-as the years go by-i like them more and more...the hooks are seductive,th e songwriting sublime and the message fairly subtle.
a good band with only a few hits - wish they would have cranked out some more good stuff...
evil evil evil evil evil-''evil love''-subli m e . . .
So glad someone asked.. according to my Myspace inbox the new LP is "just about done"... I wanted to know if they were coming back to NYC this year, said they're no where near it the closest shows being Ohio and Michigan.. building momentum off Sewn Together-chr i s t m a s is coming early!
LSD! how're these guys doin' now, by the way?
Let us update the Meat Puppets bio

"In 2009, the Meat Puppets fired drummer Ted Marcus and brought back Shandon Sahm-Doug Sahm's son.
Don't pollute a board for good music

burlybigball s
bet those jew dread's are like motorcycle ape - hanger's, great grip for the head. jew's already talk like they got a mouth full of splooge. if jesus come's back porky he's gonna be disappointed your such a rampaging flamer homo. your my biggest argument for abortion porker. it's j*i*h*a*d* time again porky I'M BACK. do you go to meat puppet show's, & sit in the stall ? making your f*a*g* mating call's. i bet all the show's you go to in NYC are in the village huh ?
Just saw a Puppets show at a small club in LR. Met the band. Cool a** dudes. They say Jay Porks should off himself. Fans like him are killing their ticket sales. Cris says Jay gives great head though.
Jay Porks, you're such a tool. I saw you at the Billy Corgan acoustic show in NYC last week. You were under Angel of Anarchy's table, giving him the VIP treatment. So did you take a double-shot from Gay-Rod and Derek Cheater after the Yanks bought their latest world series? b**ch.
they aint no pasta patrol wagon or even the baloney boys but theyre ok in my books. go puppets go. arno bulltot digs em too
new to the puppets even though heard of them for many years. on board. the goombah of soul will explore
Meat Puppets playing with Sonic Youth in Boston Nov 23rd....damn I wish I could make it to that
tickets for Nov 25th in NYC, will be my 6th time. can't wait
damn, i forgot about this group for a while too. good s**t right here!
these guys were f**king awesome at red rock with ween this weekend cant wait to see them again
Seen these guys five times and kicked arrrrrrrse every time
love them
Daytrotter sessions - http://www.d a y t r o t t e r . c o m / d t / m e a t - p u p p e t s - s x s w - s e s s i o n - l i t t l e - b y - l i t t l e - i t - a l l - g o e s - t o - h e l l - c o n c e r t / 2 0 0 3 0 6 8 1 - 3 7 3 7 9 9 3 . h t m l
Do those albums have the same singer as to high to die? I heard the Meat Puppets version of Lake Of Fire and it didnt sound like the same singer on to high to die. It was cool sounding but very abstract.
i think meat puppets ii and up on the sun are their best albums and they're both really consistent.. . i can never decide which one i like better. but it also depends what kind of thing you like. neither of the albums i mentioned are grunge like too high to die, they're more, i don't know, unlike anything you've heard before.
I cant claim to know alot about this band. I owned too high too die when I was in jr high and I really enjoyed the album. Somewhere down the line the album was stolen. Can anybody suggest another good puppets album for me to buy? This is kind of like choosing a pink floyd album. So many to choose from.
now they just need to fix the part about the kirkwoods being born in arizona. and the part about how they "didn't develop their own distinctive voice until their second album."
well they do suck sometimes, i mean they've made some pretty s**tty records, but they're still my all time favorite band. it's like they inhabit a parallel dimension and each song sort of hints at a different aspect of it and if you listen to them too much it all starts to become clear. somehow they manage to be atmospheric but at the same time really d they don't even appear to be trying.
stinkingrose s 3
So, so good.
How come No Joke! didn't make the cut for their discography? That's probably my favorite album of theirs. I spent 11 years (96-07) in Phx and for these guys to be from there, they sure didn't play ANY local shows that I remember.

Weird "small world" connection: I knew the security guard that shot Curt back in 2004 or 2005. Couldn't believe it. Glad to see he's back with his brother in the band.
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