This article is a dual review of two similar, but equally excellent records that came out in 2013. The band Meat Puppets is one of the progenitors of what was known in the 80s as the “new american rock’n’roll”. This is not a place to recall their brilliant career through the 80s, their rub with mainstream in the 90s and problems that they were going through after that. Let’s just say, it would make one hell of a bio pic. Six years ago Kirkwood brothers Curt and Cris reunited, first with Ted Marcus and then with Shandon Sahm on drums. Three albums that they recorded in those years were good, but somewhat pale when compared to the classical records that they used to make. Last year, the fourth album since the reunion came out and it’s called Rat Farm. With Rat Farm, Meat Puppets are finally fully in shape. The new album can stand head to head with their diverse 90s mainstream records and poetically reminds of their abstract psychedelic work Up On The Sun. Puppets also sound fantastic live, and those who saw them “back in the day” claim that they are as good as ever. And this is all wonderful news.
Also, in past two years, their old SST catalog got a nice set of reissues on vinyl, all those records are wonderfully mastered and totally worth getting if you don’t have the old ones already. The records were specially pre-mastered for vinyl by Greenhouse Audio, lathes were done by Clinton J. Holey and duplication was done at Cleveland’s Gotta Groove. I also have Rat Farm on vinyl and it’s lavender colored. Vinyl master was done by the Canadian company Vinyl Record Guru and unfortunately, my copy has a slight distortion problems in mid frequencies. But a huge plus is a nice gatefold cover with big Curt’s art on the front and lyrics printed inside.
One thing that’s characteristic for Meat Puppets are Curt’s crispy guitars and great vocal match between the brothers Curt and Cris. Canadian band The Sadies is also lead by two brothers, Dallas and Travis Good. They also have a great guitar style and duet vocals that have a brotherly matching quality. Sadies are known as handling multiple musical styles. They are equally competent in country rock, especially their 2004 album Favourite Colours or in surf rock, as they were on their 2006 release Tales of the Ratfink. They are also hired session musicians for many diverse artists, from Neko Case to Andre Williams. This year they released Internal Sounds. The lyrics have that same nursery rhyme abstractness as the Puppets record Rat Farm and this is not where the comparison with the Puppets ends. The entire record sounds like a really cool lost Puppets record from the 90s to me, all with vocal mannerisms from the Good brothers, guitar solos, psychedelic country mood. Another comparison that makes sense is the Yardbirds, especially their ragas and nursery rhyme psychedelic craziness such as Tinker Taylor Soldier Sailor. The Sadies must be very proud on both of those influences.
Talking about ragas, the Sadies record finishes with one. It’s a song that puts the spotlight on the legendary sixties folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie. She guest stars on vocals, mouth bow and chips in as a lyricist.
In any case, both Rat Farm and Internal Sound bring back the exciting Meat Puppets sound of their prime, which made me listen to those two records in succession multiple times, which was also why I had to write about these two albums in one single article.
Vinyl copy of Internal Sounds comes in a pretty, shiny gatefold cover with embossed white lettering. The vinyl mastering and duplication is done by the Cleveland team Gotta Groove, but sadly, something went terribly wrong on this one. This is strange since this company had a flawless record so far in my book (I just said some really great things about their work with the Meat Puppets reissues!). Grooves are distorted pretty much throughout the entire record. Starting from the third song on each side, sibilance on high ends becomes pretty obvious. Mid frequencies start falling apart as early as the second song. Perhaps pre-master had some compression that simply wasn’t vinyl friendly in this case? The good thing was that the record came equipped with the download card, which was a must in this case for me.