The Meat Puppets, Lollipop

Andrew Perry

By Andrew Perry

on 04.06.11 in Reviews

Arizona's Meat Puppets — alt-pop misfits in America's post-hardcore underground, freaky-deaky guest-stars of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged — are seemingly indestructible. Their grunge-era corporate dalliance may have been a study in how major labels screw you up, and thereafter singer-songsmith Curt Kirkwood had to go it alone for a stretch while his bass-playing brethren Cris lost the plot to a crippling cocaine addiction. But after reuniting for 2007's Rise To Your Knees, the brothers, backed by drummer Shandon Sahm, have returned to their strengths, cutting career-best music into their fourth decade of 'Pupptery.

More extraordinary than ever

Their 13th studio album, Lollipop is, from start to finish, an absolute joy, the kind of effortlessly adorable "mature" guitar-pop record which R.E.M. have struggled — and failed — to make over these past 15 years. Tunes (and, dagnabbit, are they melodic!) like "Orange," "Hour Of The Idiot" and "Damn Thing" reactivate that rollicking, acoustic-textured, enigmatically-worded songcraft coined by college rock in the mid '80s, and indeed, the Meat Puppets in the mid '90s.

Governed by punk's contrary consciousness, but equally wrapped up in rootsier traditions, the trio here touch on "Notorious Byrds Brothers"-type folk-rock ("Town"), rockabilly ("Baby Don't") and even reggae ("Shave It"), while striking up their own peculiar ruckus. If there's a greater confidence about him than in the spidery SST days, Curt still delivers the weirdest, most bamboozled stoner/psych lyrics ("I tried to slap the face of an alien," from "Amazing," etc).

Meat Puppets will never be humdrum, or grown-up. They're more extraordinary than ever — the Kurt with a 'K' would definitely be grooving on these latest transmissions.