Their alt.rock stock rose higher than the sun following Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York endorsement, but Arizona’s Meat Puppets subsequently paid a high price for their mid-90s celebrity status. Bassist Cris Kirkwood, especially, suffered an Icarus-like fall from grace, losing both wife and liberty during a decade spent fighting heroin addiction. The rehabilitated Cris and his songwriting brother Curt finally joined forces again in 2006, and the reconfigured Meat Puppets – also now featuring drummer Shandon (son of Doug) Sahm – have maintained their prolific work rate ever since.
Though it falls some way short of the arid, acid-fried surreality of their key early releases Meat Puppets II and Up On The Sun, their 14th studio set, Rat Farm, is one of their better post-millennial efforts – certainly vastly superior to 2011’s polished but unadventurous Lollipop. The song structures and harmonies are relatively linear these days, but the heavily phased psych-stomp One More Drop and the eccentric title track, which skilfully cross-pollinates slothful Bo Diddley rhythms with a peculiar reggae-like sensibility, are both compelling diversions.
Long-term devotees may be aggrieved by a mid-album slump involving the dreamy, but inessential Waiting and the straight-up power-pop of Time And Money, but the infectious, Lake Of Fire-esque River Rose and Sweet’s vintage, peyote-munching wig-out suggest sonic experimentation is still working out down on the farm.