Taken as a whole, the real-life history of the Meat Puppets reads like the first round of edits of a James Crumley crime novel. Edits, as in stuff that would have been rated too grisly even by Crumley’s violent, alcohol-soaked standards. The late writer’s head-knocking protagonists were known for their rampant use of drugs both hard and soft; the same can be said for founding Puppets Cris and Curt Kirkwood. The two shared years of solid drugging and general mayhem. Crumley could have written the part where Cris Kirkwood attacked someone at a post office, got shot, and ended up doing federal time, but he didn’t — it actually happened. It is no small miracle that Cris Kirkwood is still alive. In print, Curt once labeled his brother a “suicide in progress.”
On record, the Meat Puppets are far more interesting than their rap sheets. With Derrick Bostrom on drums, the founding lineup lasted almost 15 years. In 1980, Cris and Curt were among the first rockers to intentionally sing out of tune. They were an out-and-out hardcore band that, in ten minutes, could play as many songs. They incorporated country covers into their sets and in so doing helped forge cow punk. The band imploded in 1995, but by the next year, Curt was again fronting the Meat Puppets but with all-new band members — and far less impact.
Early Meat Puppets recordings have since been called some of the most influential of ’80s rock. Kurt Cobain was a huge fan, and he publicly claimed them as an influence. Indeed, at times, the Puppets’ sound and Nirvana’s were almost indistinguishable. Minus Bostrom, the brothers reunited two years ago and have been touring ever since. They released Rise to Your Knees in 2007. No time like the present to fire up the old fans and make some new ones.
MEAT PUPPETS, Casbah, Tuesday, January 13, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $15.