Upon Further Review: Meat Puppets Up On the Sun Tuesday, March 27, 2007Posted by Precious Roy in Precious Roy, Reasons why I am single, Things too long to read, Upon Further Review.
When most people think of the Meat Puppets, well… most people don’t think of the Meat Puppets at all because they’ve never heard of them. A few might know them as the band that Nirvana did a couple covers of—three to be exact, all from the band’s masterpiece Meat Puppets II—on the MTV Unplugged in New York album.
Dead voice of his generations loves the Meat Puppets. Transitive Property of Rock. Ergo you should love the Meat Puppets, or at least be familiar with them beyond the three songs on that record. But the boy genius didn’t cover any songs from Up On The Sun, how good could it be?
When Up On The Sun was released, it was discombobulating. It came out so close on the heels of the Meat Puppet’s II that it seemed maybe they weren’t even sure what they were doing. As musicians it was certainly a step forward, but as the Meat Puppets it was a step laterally. Bummer.
Sun seemed to owe something to Captain Beefhart, but maybe better—and it’s anachronistic to make this comparison now—would be to say it sounded like a proto-Phish record. Where was the raw and creepy gutbucket wretch of the previous records? Where was the punk insolence? Where was the post punk psychedelia? Oh wait, that was still there but it was too subtle without maybe the aid of some heavy hallucinogens.
And the rest of it? It was too clean to be dirty. It wasn’t bad. It was just out of place. So much so that when Ryko re-issued the entire Meat Puppets’ SST catalog in 1999 (ah, the good old rock critic days when free music didn’t mean stealing) the only CD in the haul to never escape the shrink wrap in my allotment was Up On the Sun.
That all changed in four minutes flat at SXSW 2007 when, during the Meat Puppets’ reunion gig at Emo’s, they dropped the title tack of Sun midway into the set. Context. It’s all about context. Up On the Sun was indeed a lateral move, and that was the point. When part of the larger set it showed how much ground the Meat Puppets carved out within that space that they created. Seriously, they created the entire genre of spooked out cowpunk-based indie psych rock themselves but within it, they weren’t one trick. They could go shooting off in a different direction and it would still be unique and yummy. Hell, they wrote a straight up pop song and made it on to modern rock radio (“Backwater”).
So, it’s not Meat Puppets II and it’s not Too High To Die but within the larger Puppets idiom Up On The Sun is its own little dialect that has more than just its own provincial charm. It would be nice if it rocked a little more though.