The Meat Puppets created three of the great rock records of the '80s while on copious amounts of hallucinogens but gradually slid into horrifying mediocrity by the mid-'90s. If you know them at all, chances are it's either from their 1994 hit ³Backwater² and the platinum album from which it came, Too High to Die, or from their appearance on Nirvana's Unplugged, on which they and Kurt Cobain performed a few cuts from the stellar Meat Puppets II, an album Cobain praised often and for good reason: That record -- like the Puppets' self-titled debut and the heavenly Up on the Sun -- was an amazing guitar record filled with a golden combination of punk, country, psychedelia and Beefheart. The result was transcendent: In three fell swoops, the Meat Puppets combined genres and philosophies to yield a singular vision.But that was a long time ago, and the result of three visions, those of guitarist/singer Curt Kirkwood, bassist/brother Cris Kirkwood and drummer Derrick Bostrom. As a trio, they were a freak machine. These days, it's just Curt and four Austin, Texas, musicians (one of them Shandon Sahm, son of the late songwriter Sir Douglas Sahm), and the music that they make on their recent Golden Lies is dense desert rock, way too polished for their own good but still containing enough texture and momentum to make it an interesting listen. Just don't expect a huge revelation, because, alas, it seems those days are gone, a heartbreaking acknowledgment for those of us whose lives were changed by II and Up on the Sun.
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