Album Review: Meat Puppets, Lollipop

(Article first published as Music Review: Meat Puppets - Lollipop on Blogcritics).

The latest album by veteran psychedelic cowpunks The Meat Puppets has what tennis commentators like to call “easy power,” meaning in this sonic context it sounds laid-back and effortless, but has a way of sneaking up on you.

Lollipop doesn’t have the same discordant and twisted cowpunk thrills of early, classic Meat Puppets II (1984) or the guitar nirvana (pun intended) of later masterpiece Too High To Die (1994). But when you allow the lysergic ditties here to wash over you a few times, the album is addictive, like the candy of its title.

On Lollipop, the Pups concentrate on the smooth vocal harmonizing of the brothers Kirkwood (Curt on guitar, Cris on bass), and the album as a whole has an ensemble feel: there’s no showing off by any of the players, and the songs are mainly acoustic-based.

Highlights here are many: “Incomplete,” the lead-off track, might be called “Peyote Pop,” with its trippy, recurring chorus and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” kind of vibe. Mid-tempo rocker "Orange” has some kick-ass syncopation and a warning from singer Curt to “slow down / take a look around,” which fits the album's general theme of withdrawal from the rat race of modern society.

“Baby Don’t" is cowpunk, but with the more gnarly edges of the early Meat Puppets planed off, leaving some great, breezy driving music and a carpe diem philosophy: “Lock the door / swallow the key / anything is all right with me,” sings Curt. “Lantern” features some lovely acoustic lead guitar, and “Town” would be a radio hit in a better world, with its lament about a “one trick town / love sick clown,” and its sense of yearning for a better way of life.

The Pups may have mellowed a bit musically, but they are still more than capable of some off-kilter lyrical weirdness. “Amazing” is an appealing, mellow psych-ballad in which the singer observes, “Everyone is lying in bed / happily they’re swallowing feathers / I try to slap the face of alien.” OK. Must’ve been some good stuff!

Likewise, “Way That It Are” hits us with the philosophical sentiment, “This dog food tastes alright / I’m wasted every night,” and some cool psychedelic electric lead guitar from Curt.

If you’re looking for an all-out rocker here, “Vile” fits the bill, as it rips along nicely with some nifty wah-wah guitar stylings. But overall, this is an album to put on when the party's over and you’re left pondering the meaning of life.

Or when you just want to chill out and have a lollipop.

 --Johnny "Gutter" Walker

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