Review: Meat Puppets – Rat Farm
Published on April 8th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
They may have influenced the likes of Nirvana, Pavement, Soundgarden, Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, but Arizona legends Meat Puppets were quick to move away from the berserk hardcore/grunge of their eponymous 1982 debut. Front man Curt Kirkwood has described their 14th album Rat Farm as “real blown-up folk music”, adding:
I tried to write stuff that would stand on its own – just the chords and the melodies, and play it kind of straight. I think that was the guiding boundary that I gave myself. It was one of those things where a lot of times, in the past especially, [bassist/brother] Cris would go, ‘Well, that’s all there is? Let’s put a prog rock part in the middle.’ But I tried to hold it off as much as I could.
This simplicity of approach is reflected in these songs’ unyielding subtlety, characterised by deceptively sophisticated Paul Simon chord progressions and Big Star/Teenage Fanclub harmonies. The opening title track revisits the reggae terrain explored on “Shave It” from 2011 predecessor Lollipop, “One More Drop” echoes latter-day Red Hot Chili Peppers, while “Leave Your Head Alone” wields a surprisingly Sgt. Pepper’s-y chorus – the disposition is sunny across the board, and why not if that’s how they feel?
Elsewhere, “Original One” evokes The Stone Roses through more than just its title and follows straight on from the ‘line-dancing Simon and Garfunkel’ of “Sometimes Blue”, with the psych-ier aspects of Rat Farm expressed in the “You’re a waterfall of colour” refrain from “Down”. That could almost have been an Arthur Lee lyric, but these laid-back numbers couldn’t possibly have sprung from that tempestuous mind.
Only on final track “Sweet” does there seem to be a degree of urgency, albeit in relative terms. Meat Puppets sound happy with their lot on Rat Farm, which may not make for anything revelatory but is always welcome when it’s done with this level of gracefulness, humility and warmth.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Rat Farm will be released on 15th April through Megaforce Records. For more information, please click here to visit the official Meat Puppets website.