Five years after the release of No Joke!
, the Meat Puppets return with Golden Lies
and a new Austin-based cast under the direction of guitarist and singer Curt Kirkwood. The five years have been dreadful by most accounts, with bassist-cofounder (and Curt's brother) Cris devastated by acute, prolonged heroin addiction and the death by overdose of his wife--a story too detailed and sordid to deliver here. So Curt's back with additional guitarist Kyle Ellison, bassist Andrew Duplantis, and drummer Shandon Sahm, and the band is as steeped in desert-scorched psychedelia as they were in their early-'90s London Records days. And though it's hard to chart growth with a band that started their career with the brilliance of Meat Puppets II
, Kirkwood shows not only the warpy ambition he crowned fans with in the mid-1980s but also a knack for using the studio as instrumental in creating a depth befitting the band that many have cited as one of American punk's greats. Kirkwood's laconic, deadpan voice matches wits with his and Ellison's thicker, artfully compressed, guitar attack. There are rave-ups ("Take Off Your Clothes"), deep-listening background dynamics, and even a very odd mottle of pop and choked-vocal guitar buzz on "Push the Button." Easily as good as any of the London-era Meat Puppets material, Golden Lies
sounds like the dawn of a new meaty era. --Andrew Bartlett