Meat Puppets

Origin: Phoenix, Arizona

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Genres: country rock, psychedelic rock, punk

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Meat Puppets is an American rock band formed in 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona.  Comprising the band are brothers Curt Kirkwood (guitar/vocals), Chris Kirkwood (bass guitar/vocals) and drummer Derrick Bostrom.  The Kirkwood brothers and Bostrom met while attending high school in Phoenix.

Meat Puppets started as a punk rock band eventually establishing their own unique style blending punk with country and psychedelic rock.  Meat Puppets gained significant exposure when the Kirkwood brothers served as guest musicians on Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance.  The band’s subsequent album 1994’s Too High to Die ultimately became their most successful release.  Meat Puppets disbanded several times over the years but has been active since 2006.

Meat Puppets origins date back to when drummer Bostrom and the Kirkwood brothers began learning songs from the drummer’s collection of punk rock 45s.  After briefly toying with the idea of calling themselves The Bastions of Immaturity, they settled on the Meat Puppets in June 1980 after a song by Curt of the same name on their first album.

Meat Puppets released their first album in 1982, which among several originals included Doc Watson and Bob Nolan covers.  By the release of 1984’s Meat Puppets II band members had grown weary of the hardcore punk label.  On this album Meat Puppets experimented with acid rock and country and western sounds, while still retaining some punk influence.  Meat Puppets II along with Violent Femmes, the Gun Club and others helped establish the genre known as “cow punk.”

The Meat Puppets third album 1985’s Up on the Sun’s psychedelic sounds resembled the folk-rock of The Byrds, while the songs still retained hardcore influences in their lengths and tempos.  Up on the Sun also finds the Kirkwood brothers harmonizing for the first time.  Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun were mainstays of college and independent radio at that time.

In 1989 Meat Puppets released their major label debut on the indie-friendly London Records.  The band chose the label in part because it was the first label that ZZ Top, one of their favorite bands had signed to.  The album Forbidden Places combined many elements of the band’s sound over the years (cow punk, psychedelia and riff heavier rock) while some songs had a more laid back early alternative sound.

In 1993 Meat Puppets broke through the mainstream when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, a long-time fan asked the Kirkwood brothers to join him for the acoustic performances on MTV Unplugged.  One of the songs that the brothers played on “Lake of Fire,” became a cult favorite for its particularly wrenching vocal performance from Cobain.  Subsequently, the Nirvana exposure and the strength of the single “Backwater” (their only charting single) helped lift Meat Puppets to new commercial heights.  The band’s studio album Too High to Die featured “Backwater” which became a minor alternative radio hit, and a hidden-track update of “Lake of Fire.” This album features a more straightforward alternative rock style, with occasional moments of pop, country and neo-psychedelic moments.  Too High To Die earned the band a gold record (500,000 sold), outselling their previous records combined.

By 2002 the Meat Puppet had disbanded due to rampant drug use by the brothers and subsequent legal issues and eventual incarceration of Chris Kirkwood.

Chris Kirkwood was released from prison in 2005 and the brothers reunited the Meat Puppets without original drummer Bostrom.  With a new drummer, Ted Marcus on board the new lineup recorded Rise to Your Knees and the full length album was released in 2007.

In August 2017 original drummer Bostrom performed with the Kirkwood brothers at what was thought to be a one-off concert.  Bostrom enjoyed the experience and in July 2018 rejoined the band.

The original lineup of the Meat Puppets returned in 2019 with their first new album Dusty Notes in more than 15 years in 2019 releasing the album’s first single “Warranty.”

Reference –

Meat Puppets discography

Meat Puppets (1982)

Meat Puppets II (1984)

Up on the Sun (1985)

Mirage (1987)

Huevos (1987)

Monsters (1989)

Forbidden Places (1991)

To High to Die (1994)

No Joke! (1995)

Golden Lies (2000)

Rise to Your Knees (2007)

Sewn Together (2009)

Lollipop (2011)

Rat Farm (2013)

Dusty Notes (2019)

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays Meat Puppets.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Check out Meat Puppets latest single “Warranty.”