In August 2017, all the original members of the Arizona rock and roll band the Meat Puppets got together for the first time in 22 years to perform.
The occasion was the band's induction into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. The band came out of the early '80s Phoenix, Ariz. punk rock scene, blending country and psychedelic rock with punk and hardcore. Along the way, Meat Puppets influenced a generation of bands including Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Soundgarden, and Nirvana, who covered three of the band's songs and who joined them on Nirvana's now-classic MTV Unplugged.
From the band's 1982 debut on, with Curt Kirkwood on guitar and vocals, his brother Cris on bass and vocals and drummer Derrick Bostrom, the band released almost a decade of acclaimed indie rock records on the Long Beach, Calif. indie record label, SST Records, before signing with a major label in 1991. The group's '80s catalog highlights (of which there were many) included Meat Puppets II, Up On The Sun, and Mirage. In 1993, Meat Puppets released Too High To Die, featuring the band's most popular song, "Backwater," that established the band all over rock radio stations and brought mainstream success. In many ways, the band's '80s records linked the beauty of albums like the Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead, to the emerging Americana-isms of Uncle Tupelo's No Depression.
Today, XPN premieres a new song, "Warranty," from the Meat Puppets upcoming album, Dusty Notes, out on March 8. It's the band's first new album since 2013, and on it, the members return with Bostrom on drums, who last recorded with the Kirkwood brothers in 1995. Dusty Notes also features jazz-trained keyboardist Ron Stabinsky, and Curt's son, Elmo, on guitar.
In an e-mail, Bostrom and Curt Kirkwood explained about just what made that evening in August 2017 so important to the original group getting back together. Derrick Bostrom wrote:
When I first heard the Meat Puppets were being inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, I was ambivalent. I hadn't spoken to either Kirkwood brother in more than a decade. But as people at work kept coming up to me, so excited and so proud, I came to realize how much it meant to our fans. I looked past my trepidation and reached out to Curt, who turned out to be just as ambivalent as I was. I knew then that it was meant to be.
Our performance at the induction ceremony left tears in our eyes. It felt like time had stopped – we were the same three guys we'd always been. Fast forward to spring of this year. Curt called to tell me their last drummer, Shandon Sahm, had decided to relocate to Amsterdam, permanently. When we met in the studio a month later, we all knew something special was happening.
The Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame ceremony reminded us of what makes the Meat Puppets special. Even though I hadn't played with them for more than 20 years, it re-lit a spark that still gives me the chills. I think Dusty Notes is a revelation. We're returning to our core, while exploring new territories and sounds.
Curt Kirkwood also cites the reunion at the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame as a motivating force to regroup.
"We started to make the record with Cris [Kirkwood], Elmo Kirkwood, Ron [Stabinsky] and Shandon [Sahm]," Kirkwood says. "Shandon decided to move to Amsterdam mid-production, so I asked Derrick if he'd like to step in and he said yes. We had a great time playing at the Hall of Fame induction show a few months prior and so it seemed like it was in the cards. It was, and Derrick is back on the traps in the five-piece power trio. We are exultant!"
Save for a cover of Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak," Dusty Notes collects nine new songs. "Warranty," the album's lead song, comes galloping out of the stable with the Meat Puppets' classic acoustic-based, country-turned-psychedelic gonzo trip signature sound. Curt's vocals are as warm as ever, and the wailing, echoing, and searing guitar that's is featured throughout gives the song a Marty Robbins-meets-Hendrix lift.
The Meat Puppets will be touring in the U.S. in 2019.
Dusty Notes is out March 8 on Megaforce.