Time is rarely fair to those who were known for innovation. Most bands slow down, as they get older, finding a new and mellower course to sail. It’s hard to contain that vitality of youth, the need to experiment and the burning desire to turn everything you know on its ear. People expect a certain amount of astonishment from certain bands, especially those who are legends.
Even with several decades’ worth of music, The Meat Puppets are mostly defined by their first three records.. The manic switch from punk to psychedelic rock to off-beat country blues is what set the Meat Puppets apart, even against innovators like Black Flag and Minutemen. The Meat Puppets haven’t really been that band in a while, and their newest album, Lollipop, feeds that idea.
The third album in the second reboot of the Meat Puppets career, Lollipop isn’t bad, it just is. To be honest you could put the entire recent Meat Puppets catalog into that set of brackets. The band is comfortable doing middle of the road rock joints and feel no need to innovate or turn the music world on its ear. The songs here are nicely crafted and played well. “Shave It” is an up-beat tune with a sing-along vibe to it, “Lantern” is a perfect slice of alt-country, while “The Spider and The Spaceship” relies more on classic country story telling. Curt Kirkwood’s voice remains haunting with a touch of despondency and his brother Curt’s bass is still understated and charming.
Lollipop remained in my ear for several listens as I tried to deconstruct why I couldn’t bring myself to recommend it. It finally dawned on me that, as sweet as the album is, it’s utterly forgettable. Stepping away from Lollipop, I could remember my opinion of the songs but not the songs themselves. This new older and wiser Meat Puppets lacks the punch their past records have had.
Now before anyone begins calling “hipster bullshit” and accusing me of being one the musical mass that point to the first three Meat Puppets albums as the only ones worthwhile, let me assure that’s not the case. I have always been a dedicated fan of the 1994 album Too High To Die and the song “Flaming Sun” from that release remains one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded.
I’m also not inferring that the band has sold out or become passé. What they’re doing is still slightly outside what normal bands are putting out and they aren’t relying on a reunion filled with “playing the hits” as some of their peers are guilty of. In an interesting way, the Meat Puppets career has now become more of an enigma than their music. The music they play is completely their own, it’s an honest choice, not a calculated attempt to seem like elder statesmen, which flies in the face of what most other bands in their generation are doing. The Meat Puppets musical choices are extremely punk rock, even if the music is extremely forgettable.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 6 OUT OF 10