NO STRINGS ATTACHED – Arizona’s Meat Puppets Return With Original Line Up For New Album ‘Dusty Notes’

Best known for their appearance on Nirvana‘s MTV Unplugged performance in 1993, Meat Puppets have been quietly churning out consistently fine records in a variety of genres for the best part of 40 years.

Dusty Notes is the first album brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood have made with original drummer Derrick Bostrom since 1995’s No Joke!.

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The trio are augmented by the keyboards of jazz-trained virtuoso Ron Stabinsky, with additional guitar from Curt’s son Elmo.

For the most part it’s a laid-back slice of Americana, with elements of folk, Bluegrass, alt and traditional Country thrown in.

It’s a warm, comfortable record, albeit with sufficient psych weirdness to unsettle and pique your attention.

Opener Warranty sets the mood, the simple tune ambles along merrily enough, but there’s an otherworldliness to the lyrics, augmented by the shimmering echo guitar overdubs.

A musty old book bears the warning “please go away don’t come again’, while the unreliable narrator is a ghostly presence throughout.

“Oh what you see is what I am/You’re looking through an invisible man/Satisfaction cannot be guaranteed,” sings Curt, his weathered voice pitched somewhere between Bob Mould and Eddie Vedder.

Songs like On  and Nine Pins (see below video) continue in the same vein, playing with traditional song structures and conventions, but always with a twist; Curt adding bite to the apparently bucolic, folksy charm of his deceptively simple songs.

Unfrozen Memory introduces a harpsichord into the mix, with again slightly sinister lyrics about a shadow escaping into the night through an opened window.

Enlivened by snatches of mariachi brass, the title track is a beautiful evocation of the art of songwriting and how melodies arrive, often unbidden, in the mind of a composer.

‘Imps of Dionysus” and the devil make an appearance in The Great Awakening which sounds like REM in their most reflective moments.

There’s a stripped down cover of Don Gibson‘s Sea of Heartbreak before the reins really come off for Vampyr’s Winged Fantasy.

A loud grunge metal rocker, with squalling guitars and lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ozzy Osbourne album, it’s a fun wig out, but feels like an odd curio here.

Thankfully, normality is restored on album closer Outflow where guitars wash gently like waves on the shore, while bass and piano pick out the rolling melody.

Sometimes reunions are a bad idea, bands struggling like punch-drunk boxers to recreate the magic of old.

But Dusty Notes is the sound of a group of creative musicians who are totally relaxed in each other’s company, the perfect accompaniment to long drives and sunny afternoons.

  • Dusty Notes is available for purchase from Amazon on this link.
  • For more about Meat Puppets, including tour dates visit their website here.

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About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch

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