Meat Puppets

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Meat Puppets

Live (DCN) It's fitting this new tour souvenir ends with the same song that begins the Meat Puppets' previous live document, because Live is the antithesis of 1999's happily warped Live in Montana. Course Montana, recorded in '88, captures the former Arizona trio at their peak, while the new (just plain) Live preserves the Austin version of the seminal roots-loving punk band. It's the acoustics, however, and not personnel that distinguish the two -- mostly. Whereas the edgy, bootleg quality of the first disc enhanced the band's manic, deranged-folksinger antics, that same sonic standard curdles the Meat Puppets' more recent metallic attack. Live sounds like a bad, third-generation audience recording. Puppet master Curt Kirkwood's vocals are lost in the band's beefed up guitar assault, while Shandon Sahm's drums come off like someone beating a plastic chair. After 75 minutes of that, you'll be ready to beat whoever mixed the sound on these Jersey and Vermont shows. To the credit of the Meat Puppets Mach II, Live resurrects their 2000 studio debut/dud Golden Lies, and successfully pits newer material like "I Quit," "Hercules," and stomping jiggernaut "Push the Button" against classic ragged oldies such as "Oh, Me," "Up on the Sun," and even hallowed dirge "Lake of Fire." Kirkwood's fierce delivery on the otherwise tuneless violence of "Take Off Your Clothes" isn't exactly pusillanimous either. With its leader's Eyes Adrift, Live could well be the Meat Puppets swan song, but for the sake of opener-turned-closer "Touchdown King" let's hope not. It deserves a better sendoff.

**

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