Release Date: May 12, 2009
Record label: Megaforce
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Imagine there was a parallel universe where the Eagles sounded really cool. Instead of going to the dark side of Wal-Mart branded corporate soft rock, Don, Glenn and the boys went out into the desert to get their heads straight and turn up their guitars. This conceit is the best way to describe Sewn Together, the reformed Meat Puppets’ sophomore effort.
The Meat Puppets shattered so dramatically in the late '90s that 12 years separated the last album with the group's original lineup, No Joke, and 2007's Rise to Your Knees, which saw guitarist Curt Kirkwood and his brother, bassist Cris Kirkwood, reunited in the studio (drummer Ted Marcus replaced original timekeeper Derrick Bostrom), and even then their reunion came as a surprise to many fans. The Meat Puppets had a hard time finding their groove on the often clumsy Rise to Your Knees, but thankfully 2009's Sewn Together finds them sounding and feeling like their old selves again. The production on Sewn Together is more polished and professional than on the Pups' classic '80s albums like Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun, and the presence of a few guest musicians and some keyboard and mandolin overdubs gives this a glossy sheen more befitting their later major-label efforts Forbidden Places and Too High to Die.
As with any band that survives 29 years of trauma-- even if much of that trauma was self-administered-- it's hard not to feel a flush of happiness when you read about the Meat Puppets' 21st-century trajectory (so far). It's truly great that the reunion of brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood-- long delayed by addiction, prison, and general interpersonal mayhem-- has become an ongoing concern. Two albums in three years, and a healthy touring schedule: That's an admirable work rate even before you take the struggles of the recent past into account.
Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun were not fascinating punk albums because they were country. They were fascinating punk albums because they trampled country music with its own stallion, then sat on its crumpled body and smoked all its Marlboro Reds. It’s been a long time since the Meat Puppets were the twenty-something desert dogs from Phoenix that turned SST Records on its side and showed that it’s okay to make a punk album by meshing unpunk elements.
Though the band was sadly omitted from Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad’s fantastic account of US indie music in the 1980s, the Meat Puppets didn’t let that stop them from joining their peers in the post-millennium reunion trend. Of course, the Puppets faced a slightly more insurmountable set of obstacles than Mission of Burma and Dinosaur Jr. —most notably, bassist Cris Kirkwood’s year-plus of jail time for assaulting a post office security guard in Phoenix, Arizona in 2003 (not to mention the serious gunshot wounds he sustained in the altercation).
When Cris Kirkwood rejoined the Meat Puppets for Rise to Your Knees (see "Lake of Fire," July 20, 2007), the album's gritty folk dirge belied big brother Curt Kirkwood's mortal relief. Post-punk's Everly Brothers were back. With Sewn Together, the Kirkwoods and drummer Ted Marcus reanimate a Meat Puppets not seen or heard since the original Tucson, Ariz., trio's SST country-roots-punk coalesced into the classic rock of its early-1990s London Records.