CD Review of Sewn Together by The Meat Puppets
The Meat Puppets: Sewn Together
Recommended if you like
Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soul Asylum
Megaforce Records
The Meat Puppets:
Sewn Together

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

ne of alternative rock's most important bands returns with a new album that shows a once-faltering future to be bright again. The Meat Puppets were a cult band largely unknown to the masses until Kurt Cobain brought Curt and Cris Kirkwood onstage at the taping of Nirvana's "MTV Unplugged" performance for three Meat Puppets songs. The band's next album, Too High to Die, then went gold, but the group was soon sidetracked by bassist Cris Kirkwood's drug problems, which ushered him out of the band for a decade starting in 1996.

The wayward bassist recovered to rejoin guitarist/brother Curt Kirkwood and drummer Ted Marcus in 2006, but it's Sewn Together that really finds the band getting their groove back. Curt's guitar playing is superb throughout, jumping through influences from punk to country to Neil Young and Jerry Garcia, while his vocals are crisp and assured. Cris and drummer Marcus are rock solid throughout, propelling each tune with tight precision.

The title track kicks off the album with an upbeat country-flavored rock tune that establishes a positive vibe, with Curt's guitar providing some spacey yet melodic fills. "Blanket of Weeds" builds the album's energy with a rocking mid-tempo number that takes the listener back to the early '90s, with Curt's fuzz-filled guitar solos oozing psychedelia. "I'm Not You" features Curt channeling old-school bluegrass influences on mandolin for a tune that recalls the sound of members from the Yonder Mountain String Band sitting in with Widespread Panic last New Year's Eve in Denver.

"Rotten Shame" is a high-energy romp, propelled by Marcus' tight drumming and soaring atmospherics by Curt. "Go to Your Head" slows things down, but still creates a compelling atmosphere with Curt's vocals taking on a dreamlike quality. "Clone" continues that dreamlike atmosphere on an intriguing tale of magic scientists, but adds in some piano and big crashing chords to enlarge the chorus.

"Smoke" provides a bluesy breather before "S.K.A." cranks it back up with a mean groove from the Kirkwoods, with Curt's guitar doubling Cris' heavy low end on the verse before a spiraling passage of psychedelia that leads to a melty guitar solo. "Nursery Rhyme" delivers another melodic rocker, with the now signature spacey guitar. "The Monkey and the Snake" continues in that melodic vein with an almost child-like vibe, yet still with spacey flavor. "Love Mountain" wraps it up with a unique pop rocker that shows influences from across the '80s map.

The band's pioneering blend of punk, country and psychedelic rock was clearly a major influence on Kurt Cobain, and the rest of the modern rock world by proxy. "One of the things I read him say was we showed him that it didn't have to be loud and fast; the intent could be conveyed in other ways," said Cris Kirkwood about that influence in a recent interview at Sewn Together demonstrates that influence in compelling fashion, featuring the band playing energetically with their new lease on life. The group delivered a triumphant performance focused on the new material at Austin's SXSW Festival in March, showing that they're once again ready for prime time. It's only too bad Cobain isn't still around to sit in.

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