Meat Puppets - Dusty Notes - - Soundblab

Meat Puppets - Dusty Notes

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2019-03-08
Meat Puppets - Dusty Notes
Meat Puppets - Dusty Notes

Be it the staying power of their underground classic Meat Puppets II, their show-stopping mini-set during Nirvana’s famed Unplugged performance, or the mid-90’s saturation of Too High to Die’s “Backwater”, the Meat Puppets have had a pretty amazing run. And not to discount any of the aforementioned accolades, but what might be the Arizona band’s best-kept secret is the potency of their third-act resurgence which has resulted in a handful of unsung classics.

Born out of a brief reunion back in 2017 (where the trio was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame), the Meat Puppets latest album, Dusty Notes, finds the Kirkwood brothers teaming up with their original drummer Derrick Bostrom for the first time in more than two decades. And while a lot has changed in the music landscape since the original Meat Puppet’s trio released No Joke! back in 1995, fans of the band’s alt-rock heyday will be happy to hear that Dusty Notes will likely go down as yet another late-career highlight.

While the key ingredients to the band’s classic sound are still in place, Dusty Notes is notably augmented with contributions from Keyboardist Ron Stabinsky, and Curt’s son Elmo. With everything from banjos, harpsichords, and a healthy dose of organ work, Dusty Notes is a stark departure from the ‘less-is-more’ ethos employed on recent efforts.

Case in point being the album-opener “Warranty”, a deep-fried toe-tapper that rolls in like a tumbleweed on a bed of heavy-handed guitar strums, fuzz-drenched leads, and Curt Kirkwood’s unmistakable drawl before dropping one of the band’s strongest hooks in recent memory. The organ intro of “Nine Pins” and the lush harmony work permeating “On” continue to underscore the band’s decision to hone in on the alt-country facets of their sound.

Floating upon an almost hypnotic melody, “The Great Awakening“ is easily one of Kirkwood’s best songs this side of the millennium, while tracks like “Sea Of Heartbreak” and the title track are yesteryear-leaning country-rock romps that easily could’ve found a home on any one of the band’s early releases. Meanwhile, the breakneck scorcher “Vampyr’s Winged Fantasy”, with it’s dueling leads and frenetic drums, is a late-record highlight, while the epic, album-closing “Outflow” feels like an updated take on the sweeping classic “Oh Me”.

The strength of the Meat Puppets has always been in the Kirkwood brothers’ ability to effortlessly channel elements of country, folk, and arena rock through a punk-rock lense; and in that respect, Dusty Notes is as focused as any Meat Puppets album; period. A feat that, as Bostrom recently noted, was clearly by design: “The goal was to end up with songs that would stay in the band's live set.”

Longtime fans will undoubtedly hear shades of the band they know and love but make no mistake; Dusty Notes is anything but a nostalgia trip. It feels less like a celebration of the past and more like a taste of things to come, and in that respect, the Meat Puppets have managed to accomplish what few of their peers could - i.e., they've remained relevant.

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