Meat Puppets – Dusty Notes
Back with their original line-up, Meat Puppet fans can rest assured that Dusty Notes is a bona fide treat to match Bob Mould’s Sunshine Rock in the renaissance stakes
Reuniting the original line-up of Meat Puppets (last seen on 1995’s No Joke!, arguably the last great grunge album, released as that particular black hole sun was fading out, which was a shame as it's more than stood the test of time), Dusty Notes sees brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood joined by drummer Derrick Bostrom on an album that recalls nothing so much as their vintage pre-grunge classic, 1985's Up on the Sun.
What we have here is a delicious slab of folksy ingenuousness, 'a sweeter sound', as Curt sings on Nine Pins; an ode, we presume, to the joys of bowling, and the kind of banjo and keyboard-driven joy you could imagine the Big Lebowski flying through the sky to.
Harder guitars lurk in the background, but they're rarely front and centre. Unfrozen Memory, for instance, sounds like the Addams Family’s Lurch, busy at his harpsichord, while Screaming Trees tune up in the kitchen. Nightcap has a sturdy guitar line throughout but it’s the plinky-plonky piano and the Simon & Garfunkel vocals that steal your heart. Which isn’t to say that they don’t cut loose – they do, magnificently, on Vampyr’s Winged Fantasy, which is as good as anything on No Joke! – but the exception to the rule here.
At its best, on songs like The Great Awakening, Sea of Heartbreak and Outflow, Dusty Notes functions like a terrific late-phase R.E.M. album (an album R.E.M. themselves struggled to land). Curt's voice sounds beautiful, crisp and clear, resigned to fate, yielding beauty in the midst of cracked flaws. And the band, fleshed out with keyboardist Ron Stabinsky and Curt's son Elmo, work the magic of making all of this sound fresh and new. Meat Puppet fans can rest assured that here is a bona fide treat to match Bob Mould’s Sunshine Rock in the renaissance stakes.
Listen to: Nine Pins, Nightcap