The Young

Pioneering vets of the thriving Austin, TX music scene, flannel-clad rock ‘n’ roll geekoids The Young are Matador Records’ latest discovery and its just-dropped Chrome Cactus bleeds teeth-sharp and moody, fuzz-drenched earworm-worthy desert jams. Led by hook-centric, moping savant Han Zimmerman, The Young lay on the infectiously coiled stoner highway driving songs thick on its sophomore effort, recalling ZZ Top, Television, Meat Puppets and Dead Moon on a hallucinogenic bender. Weed clouded, psych anthems for sulking indie rockers never felt so good.

Thu., Sept. 11, 8:30 p.m., 2014


Meat Puppets

The Meat Puppets are one of those bands whose omnipresence and influence within alternative music can’t be missed: From Nirvana to Pavement, this cowpunk band and early SST Records signee, fronted by Phoenix’s Kirkwood brothers, have been unapologetically themselves since the early ’80s. This year, they released their fourteenth album, Rat Farm, which stays true to their psychedelic form and exemplifies why they’ve been able to continue being as pervasive as they have been all these years.

Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m., 2013


Meat Puppets

After more than three decades of being lauded for their on-again, off-again noisy proto-grunge, the Meat Puppets, led by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, still sound a bit down, as though they’ve just gotten bad news. They whine, moan, and pine on their latest (Lollipop, released earlier this year) just as they have since “Lake of Fire” in the early ’80s. Then again, even though it’s not as innovative as the music they wrote 25 years ago, who really wants to hear how these guys would play if they were satisfied? With Dex Romweber Duo.

Fri., Nov. 4, 6:30 p.m., 2011


Dark Meat+Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt (CMJ)

Dark Meat are hippie-punks in the classic, musty vein of Butthole Surfers or Meat Puppets—the only difference being that there’s, like, two dozen of them touring in a big green school bus. Their upcoming second album, Truce Opium, has a better mastery of what to do with their massive horn section, focusing more on ecstatic textures than wild freakouts, though their show will probably still have its share of wild, 20-person sound pileups. Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt is the 20-millionth shirtless punk band doing half-serious “soul,” but now over “hot” Wham City-styled bloops. With Spanish Broads.

Sat., Oct. 24, 8 p.m., 2009


Meat Puppets+Retribution Gospel Choir

The band’s second album since bassist Cris Kirkwood’s return to the fold, Sewn Together finds the Meat Puppets in bright-and-strummy psych-country mode, with crisp harmonies and jangle-riffic guitar lines aplenty. Not much of the old lake-of-fire voodoo, alas, but tunes are mostly strong enough to distract you from wha’s missing. Retribution Gospel Choir is Low frontman Alan Sparhaw’s down-and-dirty garage rock trio, and there’s a little bit of lake-of-fire voodoo here.

Thu., June 11, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 12, 8 p.m., 2009



Since the legend of Los Angeles booger-wipers Fear revolves around their beer-chugging, audience-baiting, epithet-hurling, SNL-destroying exploits, it’s easy to forget that they secretly helped invent American hardcore’s version of post-punk. Since their jerky personas didn’t give critics the warm fuzzies like nice guys the Minutemen or Meat Puppets, it’s easy to overlook the otherworldly sound of 1982’s The Record—operatic vocals, 5/4 time sigs, jazz riffs, no-wave sax, dissonant sludge. Now down to just leader Lee Ving, they’re back to flick off a new generation. With Mongrel, Tall Black Girls, and Violent Bullshit.

Wed., May 6, 7 p.m.; Thu., May 7, 7 p.m., 2009


Reprising a Classic Built to Spill Record, For Good and Ill

We have come to watch haggard, hirsute, immobile, relentlessly uncharismatic men rip dispassionately through vicious, meandering, apologetically melodic guitar solos that remind us of our years as college-radio DJs, and tonight we shan’t be denied. The Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., and Built to Spill, by God, all mashed onto one Thursday-night Terminal 5 bill, the latter performing 1997’s “get all spilt on some green and contemplate the cosmos” sad-rock epic Perfect From Now On. “This album came out my senior year of high school!” shouts the ecstatic gentleman behind me to his no doubt similarly rapt companion. “But I didn’t get it until the next year, when I was in college. I used to lie down . . . and get high . . . and freak out. It was awesome.” Even if you were chemically unaffected, it was, and still is—but not so much in person, and definitely not with that guy around.

The Meat Puppets go first, sounding initially like when the dudes in a garage band all switch instruments at the end of practice and just “jam.” The effect is intentional, a psychedelic and deeply surreal desert-punk bastardization of loping country-rock, brought to you by the flailing burrito brothers: manic, wiry Cris Kirkwood on bass, and dexterous but laconic Curt Kirkwood on guitar, the latter clad this evening in, I do believe, pajamas. They too have indulged in this sweet new trend of reprising classic albums front-to-back for reverent and nostalgic crowds, hooting and hollering through the sun/drug-damaged Dali/Dollywood of 1984’s Meat Puppets II, and while tonight’s is a conventional, career-spanning set list (“Severed Goddess Hand,” still sublime), Cris and Curt dutifully plow through that album’s trio of tunes lovingly and beautifully appropriated by Kurt Cobain for Nirvana Unplugged in New York. “Plateau” and “Oh Me” are surly, gnarly beasts tonight, and “Lake of Fire” is so rushed and crabby you’d think it was being performed at gunpoint, Curt curtly speed-mumbling through the lyrics—wheredobadfolksgowhentheydie—as though reading off the unpleasant side effects of Levitra.

Dinosaur Jr. has also triumphantly reconvened lo these past few years, with prodigal bassist Lou Barlow—a bizarre amalgam of dorky and cocky—perhaps the only performer tonight remotely concerned with Showmanship. He preens and pouts, but frail frontman J. Mascis still both steals and wields the thunder, cradled by three looming Marshall stacks, the two on the outside both titled slightly toward the one in the middle, like a tailor’s mirrors, the better to aurally admire himself as he fucking blazes, volcanic eruptions of feedback bashed into scuzzy but nonetheless deeply comforting riffs and violent, epic solos. “Freak Scene” and “The Wagon” are still great; “Feel the Pain” is still great fun. Tonight is fully dedicated to reprising and at least momentarily restoring the primacy of the guitar, and while such unabashed ax-worship has its drawbacks (endless tuning sessions after every song), Mascis can trigger a warm rush of wistful exhilaration without visually betraying one iota of exhilaration himself.

Nor does Built to Spill ringleader Doug Martsch regale us with high kicks and witty banter. Not that he ever did, actually, but tonight’s main event feels particularly inert, distinctly lacking in spontaneity and surprise, a perhaps unavoidable byproduct of everyone knowing the set list in advance. This is my inaugural “play an entire album” soiree, and as in thrall as I remain to Perfect From Now On, with its immaculate melding of classic-rock grandiosity and indie-rock fragility, the impact suffers when every punch is telegraphed. Hoping and praying that Doug deigns to play “Velvet Waltz,” and rejoicing when he finally does, is a far different—and, substantial risk (that he won’t) notwithstanding, far preferable—situation than the safe but dull assurance that of course he’ll play “Velvet Waltz.” Fifth.

And yet. The reverence awarded this album is heartwarming, and also kind of hilarious: the lusty whoops that greet the intimate opening strains of “Randy Described Eternity,” the way everyone pumps their fists when Doug yelps “I’m gonna be perfect from now on/I’m gonna be perfect starting now.” And he certainly brought along enough firepower to re-create the album’s smeary, incandescent, towering Neil-Young-With-Even-More-Flannel firestorms, with three guitars, a mournful cellist, and a forcefully swinging bassist rumbling about. That much artillery, in turn, plays hell with a band’s notions of delicacy: The raucous, full-power coda of “I Would Hurt a Fly” translates vividly, but the soft, quiet, full-song buildup is mostly muddied and swamped out. It’s full-bore intensity you need, though, to make the still-mighty “Velvet Waltz” sing, and even if the three lead-guitar lines are more or less indistinguishable from each other in all that racket, you get the idea, and the idea is you oughtta lie down and freak out all over again.

Nonetheless, when you’re openly invited to compare tonight’s reprise of a beloved record to your deified memory of the record itself, it’s easy to nitpick: to vastly prefer the blunt, brutal summary of “Stop the Show” on that one live record BTS put out to the sluggish, disjointed original version on Perfect, the difference between a fantastic trailer and the terrible, endless movie it advertises. And more to the point, no one’s more bored and unchallenged by this format than the band itself. Doug and the boys chug dutifully through the abrupt, joyous pivots of “Kicked It in the Sun” and the various meanderings of closing epic “Untrustable Pt. 2,” but when you know all the motions in advance, it’s way more noticeable when the band’s just going through them.

Which is why it’s a great relief when the album ends, and the concert doesn’t. “Untrustable” hasn’t even quite crapped out yet when the drummer starts hammering the rudimentary beat that stomps undaunted and unchanging through the much-newer “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” a two-chord basher that visibly and audibly liberates the band, Doug’s vocals and demeanor suddenly much more fervent and engaged. And thus is the undeniable highlight of a concert devoted entirely to one album one of the three songs that isn’t on it. We wrap up with a loping, rudderless “Virginia Reeling Around the Fountain,” Curt Kirkwood (still in pajamas) sneaking back out to whack on the drums for awhile, back in the garage at the end of practice, everyone just farting around, freed from the tyranny of an 11-year-old track list. It was slightly annoying but defiantly unscripted, and at that particular moment, the latter was more important.


New Day Rising

The finest moment in the Meat Puppets’—hell, maybe the entire Amerindie—catalog comes 1:41 into 1984’s “Plateau,” when stoned space-case Curt Kirkwood’s nimble acoustic finger-picking and melancholy mumblings concerning buckets, birds, and talk-show hosts slams headfirst into a Technicolor burst of shimmering acid-guitar chords, launching the tune out of the Arizona (Mexico? Greenland?) foothills and straight into the stratosphere. There’s nothing quite so transcendent on the new Rise to Your Knees, but given its backstory—the first Meat Puppets studio effort in seven years, and the first in 12 to feature the bass playing and sweetly inharmonious harmony vocals of Kirkwood’s brother, Cris, who for a decade or so was ravaged by a severe heroin addiction—the fact that the album exists at all is a minor miracle.

It also happens to be, if not a great Meat Puppets record, then at least a pretty good one. Curt has been touting Knees as of a piece with his band’s much-fetishized 1980s SST output, which established the sun-baked Arizonian trio as the biggest—and most adventurous, if not exactly the most musically adept—bunch of weirdos on a label packed to the gills with ’em. In truth, the new record skews more traditional, spurning all traces of the Puppets’ early punk (as expected) or more recent heavy-metal (thank God) proclivities in favor of a jangly, quasi-rootsy, pleasantly sloppy approach.

So the highlights are subtler—Curt’s strangled guitar leads on “Vultures,” Cris’s bucolic guitjo plucking on “Tiny Kingdom,” the brothers’ vaporous vocal harmonies on “Disappear”—but also more tuneful. As a lyricist, Curt remains impressively impressionistic, fashioning evocative portraits out of seemingly random images—ice on fire, crap on shoes, a trip to the, um, mall—though his delivery is thoroughly deadpan, practically deflated. In playing it straight, however, the Pups emphasize their abilities as skilled synthesists rather than merely falling back on their rep as inspired eccentrics, suggesting a band that, though grounded, has yet to plateau.

The Meat Puppets play the Knitting Factory August 29-30,


Breaking All the House Rules Until Your Head Cracks Open

Harvey Milk are what you get when a college-town metal trio opts for playing the altie pits over frat beer bashes. Such bands make no money and women shun them—but they do make seven-inch split singles swept up by sweaty hermits who store them in boxes where, under no circumstance, are they ever to be listened to.

More University of Georgia post-football-game orgies would have done the trick, wringing these guys of some of the Leatherface noise that attracts such fans. Flying chairs aimed at the head focus the mind on the classic riffs over underground cred every time.

“Fray-bird!” the sodden 280-pound Bulldog tackle shouts, and instead of giving in to the urge to play something from the Meat Puppets’ In a Car, by golly, you play something pentatonic and familiar.

But don’t go thinking Harvey Milk’s The Singles is an absolute loss, because the music-major guitarist saves the day. Maybe his heart just wasn’t into a complete surrender to pigfuck. Or maybe he just really liked Robert Fripp slumming on King Crimson’s Ladies of the Road.

So, once you filter out the little bit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre singer and lock onto the leaden trudge and titles, HM are Budgie, only a little more angry and speechless. “Her Mouse Gets My Dander Up” and “I Do Not Know Hot to Live My Life” show a talent in the same vein as “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand” and “She Used Me Up (and Threw Me Back Down).”

As a bonus, “Easy Thing” furnishes an arena ballad cut-to-order for people who loathe such things, and the recording closes with a friendly traditional mock of Ritchie Blackmore.