Though the band now resides in Austin, Meat Puppets and the brothers Kirkwood (Curt and Cris) will be forever tied to the Valley of the Sun whence they sprung.
That connection has gotten stronger to with the addition of Curt's son Elmo--a Tempe resident and guitarist in local bands Flamingo and Kirkwood Dellinger --now an official member of the touring band. It's a new era for the band, which is releasing Rat Farm April 16 on Megaforce.
Unlike past works as a trio that balanced a heavier rhythmic mode with short lead fills and accentuations, Elmo's live guitar wizardry has clearly prodded Curt, who last June told New Times, "Elmo is probably a better guitarist," into more sonic exploration. Rat Farm is equipped with hard-driving songs of greater depth, blistering guitar leads, atmospheric effects and even a few strange proggy moments. It's nice to hear the staccato guitar bursts come and go on the heavy rocker "Again," or the soaring atmospheric interludes compliment the ambling rhythms on "River Rose."
Rat Farm is equipped with hard-driving songs of great depth, blistering guitar leads, atmospheric effects, and even a few strange proggy moments. Drummer Shandon Sahm -- another son of a noted underground legend, Tejano rocker Doug Sahm -- lets loose, grounding the band with a firm rock 'n' roll backbeat. It's nice to hear the staccato guitar bursts come and go on the heavy rocker "Again" or the soaring atmospheric interludes complementing the ambling rhythms on "River Rose."
The core Meat Puppets sound -- sun-baked, hard desert punk twang -- remains, and several songs carry that classic weight well, but the bottom line is that this latest incarnation of Meat Puppets rocks harder than ever (which may explain why Megaforce signed them), and that is a very, very good thing.
Though we can't share the songs with you dear readers just yet, we can offer a little idea of what the album sounds like.
"Rat Farm": Vintage cowpunk sound with heavy intro dipping in classic SST burning punk angst. Welcome back.
"One More Drop": Heavy rhythms on this 1970s-style anthem, with fiery guitar leads and full accompaniment.
"Down": Brilliant, rich, thick and turbulent melody with a full flowing "waterfall of colors," as Curt sings on this heavy track, complete with metal-esque power ballad guitar lead.
"Leave Your Head Alone": Dense power ballad with twang that morphs into a circus ride "Gotta leave your head alone / Gotta leave / Gotta wave bye-bye cause nobody home," Curt sings before spacy guitars kick in and rocket everyone away.
"Again": Another deep, rich dense, heavy rocker (notice a pattern here) with wild-spacy guitar flirtations.
"You Don't Know": A classically styled MP country punk jaunt buoyed with behind-the-eyes guitar zingers.
See the next page for the second half of our brief, tantalizing breakdown of Rat Farm .
"Waiting": A jaunty country waltz with dual vocal harmonies and Spanish-style guitar leads and melodies.
"Time and Money": A rollicking, gritty rocker with a twangy undercurrent and prog centerpiece. Weirdly good.
"Sometimes Blue": This fat country rocker carries epic soundtrack-like proportions.
"Original One": This track sounds closest to the original Meat Puppets glory days at SST, but less tinny and more filling.
"River Rose": Here's another classic-sounding MP song, with bouncy chorus and dual vocals, bolstered by more mind-shaping guitar atmospherics (see another pattern here?)
"Sweet": Fast, furious, dense, and choppy with lush harmonic interludes and chunky to screaming guitars.
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Note: This article has been modified from its original version. Elmo Kirkwood plays in the touring incarnation of Meat Puppets, but does not appear on Rat Farm.
Meat Puppets' Rat Farm hits stores and the web on Tuesday, April 16.