A couple days ago, Reader culture editor Tal Rosenberg tweeted about noticing that the Meat Puppets had played the house band in the 1990 pilot for Beverly Hills 90210. I've never seen that show, but at that time the Arizona trio were in transition—they'd released their final album for SST, Monsters, the year before, and would drop their major-label debut, Forbidden Places (London), a year later. I haven’t listened to the three albums the Meat Puppets made for London in a very long time, but I remember liking them—including 1994's Too High to Die, which went gold. Drug problems and the departure of founding drummer Derrick Bostrom pretty much doomed the group a few years later.
The Meat Puppets' best stuff, though, is still their early output for SST, when they were part of a crucial group of hardcore bands bucking the conventions of a genre that had quickly become codified. Bostrom and brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood (on bass and guitar, respectively) were always square pegs in the hardcore scene, openly embracing a hippie vibe, wearing their hair long, and maintaining an abiding interest in the Grateful Dead and country music. The band’s self-titled debut in 1982 was a wonderfully inchoate blur, and two years later the Meat Puppets established themselves as extraordinary with Meat Puppets II, an enduring, mildly schizophrenic classic that drifted among sun-baked stoner ballads, two-beat twang (including “Lost,” which Nirvana would go on to cover nearly a decade later), and blammo wreckage such as today’s 12 O’Clock Track—album opener “Split Myself in Two.” It’s an acid-fried lurch of noise and paranoia, with lyrics that seem to play out a cliched gambling scene from an old western. Just like the rest of the album, it sounds as good as ever.