Meat Puppets and Butthole Surfers
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 18, 2003
Meat PuppetsAlive in the Nineties (Cornerstone)
Butthole SurfersBlind Eye Sees All
Ten hours of The Beatles Anthology, five hours of the Led Zeppelin DVD, and three-plus hours of The Kids Are Alright due from The Who in September all offer classic bang for your bank card, but they're hardly fresh chapters in music history. When Mike Watt, fidgeting in a dingy rehearsal space, reveals that the Minutemen's D. Boon took to heart lessons learned from the Meat Puppets (overdubs!), it's a musical footnote that'll stick with you like your state capitals. Ditto for DIY Ph.D. Thurston Moore and his comic recollections of the Meat Puppets' first tour through NYC. Both are reminders that Eighties-era American post-punk remains poorly documented domestic policy in indie nation. Add these two DVDs to the syllabus, then. The Meat Puppets' Alive in the Nineties sutures together 50 minutes of live footage from the Phoenix-based trio's commercial peak, most of it from amateur videoticians. Current Austin cowpunk emeritus and principal singer-songwriter Curt Kirkwood goes from metal ("Attacked by Monsters") to jamgrass ("Coming Down") with typically commanding dexterity, but it's brother Cris Kirkwood, whose heroin addiction gutted the original group, that emerges as one-third crucial to the Meat Puppets' enduring legacy. His lead vocal on an in-store nailing of Too High to Die's "Station" is every bit as memorable as his brother's fleet picking on Forbidden Places' "Sam," taped at the Knitting Factory in 1993 during the band's inaugural acoustic live set. An Italian TV performance rams it home with a fierce, mind-bending reading of the Feederz' "Fuck You." Given the scrapbook nature of this approximation of the band's set lists of the period, another 45 minutes of splice would have been welcome, but 50 minutes of extras, including a bass summit with Cris Kirkwood, Watt, and Flea, eases the come-down. Bonuses are scarce on the Butthole Surfers' Blind Eye Sees All DVD -- a tremulous live version of "Negro Observer" from 1991 and a photo gallery -- but hidden among the "Butthole Karaoke" are two "songs" from a disastrous, and for singer Gibby Haynes, mostly naked opening gig for TSOL in 1982. The main attraction is, of course, the 66 minutes of footage from a pair of BHS shows in Detroit from 1985. Paul Leary eating the mic during the opening "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave" gives way to Haynes' cyclone hair, the double-drumming, "One Hundred Million People Dead" overdrive of King Coffey and Teresa Taylor, and the Austin punk institution's primitive, turn-you-inside-out cathartic cacophony. Gibby's bra and alto sax on "Bar-be-que Pope," Leary's hornet twang on "Tornado," the cockroach break for cover of "Mexican Caravan," spasms of "Cherub," and the writhing, tubacious "Something," all intercut with a BHS bed-in/interview of comic improv proportions, demonstrate the group's inspired perversion of musical convention. Three, five, and 10 hours of this would turn even the most hardcore "Dum Dum" into Cream Corn From the Socket of Davis, but this is an unquestionably essential entry in the Book of Rock, and as such should be taught to every school child. "Helter Skelter" for all.