Our top 10 Meat Puppets songs list presents the music of an American band known for popularizing the country-punk sound in the early and mid-’80s. Initially, Meat Puppets started as a punk rock band, just like most of the acts on the SST Records roster at the time. However, the band drifted to the country-punk sound, as evidenced by its critically acclaimed sophomore record, Meat Puppets II. The country punk subgenre saw the band blend punk vibes with country, blues, folk, and psychedelic rock sonic influences.
Other bands that helped popularize the country-punk subgenre include Social Distortion, Rubber Rodeo, Violent Femmes, and The Long Ryders. Meat Puppets eventually rose to fame as one of the fan-favorite in the ’80s American underground. Most of the band’s groundbreaking releases were issued through SST Records. However, Meat Puppets gained significant publicity after Chris, and Curt Kirkwood featured on Nirvana’s live album MTV Unplugged in New York.
This resulted in the band’s most acclaimed and best-selling 1994 album, Too High to Die. Unfortunately, the band’s next release, No Joke! failed to catapult the band to success forcing its original lineup to break up. The band reunited a while later but failed to really capture its lost spark. After a series of lineup changes, Meat Puppets’ original lineup reunited, issuing the band’s most recent and successful album, Dusty, in 2019.
Meat Puppets’ Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
The rise of Meat Puppets was highly influenced by drummer Derrick Bostrom’s previous interaction with bassist Cris Kirkwood in Atomic Bomb Club. After the dissolution of Atomic Bomb Club, Bostrom and Cris’ love for music saw them rehearse together, this time with Cris’ brother Curt Kirkwood. The trio went on to form Meat Puppets in 1980, releasing its first EP, In A Car.
In A Car was a seven-track EP that featured the band’s initial fast-paced thrash/hardcore punk sound. The EP was issued through World Imitation. While the EP failed to catapult the band to success, it helped the band to gain the attention of its next record label, SST Records. Meat Puppets went on to issue its eponymous debut album in 1982. The band maintained its hardcore punk sound on Meat Puppets.
Two years later, Meat Puppets released its groundbreaking sophomore album, Meat Puppets II. Meat Puppets II saw the band depart from its usual hardcore punk sound, taking on the country-punk. The twelve-track album featured some of the best Meat Puppets songs, including “Plateau,” “Lost,” “Lake of Fire,” and “Oh, Me.” Fellow labelmates Minutemen covered Meat Puppets’ hit “Lost” on the EP, Tour-Spiel.
Meat Puppets’ Album Releases over the Years
After the successful sophomore LP, Meat Puppets returned to the studio to work on a third studio album. In 1985, the band issued, Up on the Sun, through SST Records. Like the band’s sophomore release, Up on the Sun’s sound gyrated around country punk sound. However, the album featured some psychedelia sonic influences. This twelve-track album is home to some of the biggest songs by Meat Puppets, including “Enchanted Porkfist,” “Up on the Sun,” and “Swimming Ground.”
1987 was a busy year for Meat Puppets, with the band releasing two albums, Mirage and Huevos. Mirage marked the band’s fourth album and the hundredth album released by SST Records. “I Am A Machine” is one of the most memorable songs by Meat Puppets from Mirage. Mirage saw the band take on some alternative rock and neo-psychedelia sonic influences.
Fans were quick to note the departure from Meat Puppets’ usual punk-influenced sound. The result was poor reception and sales of the album. Huevos also departed from the band’s usual sound to feature blues rock, alternative rock, and hard rock sounds. While the band’s fans might not have received Huevos with the magnitude Meat Puppets expected, the album went on to inspire other acts such as ZZ Top. “I Can’t Be Counted On” is one of the musical gems from Huevos.
Meat Puppets released its sixth studio album, Monsters, in 1989. The album saw the band delve much into hard rock with some heavy metal sonic influences. Vocalist Curt Kirkwood revealed that Monsters was the band’s response to bands like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi’s heavy metal sound. Monsters was Meat Puppets’ trial to make in the mainstream rock scene. Some of the best Meat Puppets songs from the album include “Attacked by Monsters” and “Light.”
Unfortunately, Meat Puppets cut ties with SST Records. The band tried getting to higher levels by signing with a major record label, London Records. Forbidden Places, issued in 1991, marked the band’s first album issued through London Records. The eleven-track album received a fair reception, featuring hits such as “Sam,” “Whirlpool,” and “Nail It Down.”
1994 was the band’s greatest year following the release of the band’s eighth studio album, Too High to Die. The album’s title is an imitation of the 1984 LP Too Tough to Die by The Ramones. Too High to Die catapulted Meat Puppets to mainstream and commercial success. The album’s success is highly attributed to the Kirkwood brothers’ appearance on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York.
Too High to Die saw the band appreciate alternative rock and grunge sonic influences. “Backwater” and “We Don’t Exist” are some of the best Meat Puppets songs from the album. Too High to Die went on to top the Billboard Heatseekers chart. The album is the highest-charting release by Meat Puppets, peaking at number sixty-two on the Billboard 200. Too High to Die was supported by tours where Meat Puppets opened for other artists, including Soul Asylum, Blind Melon, and Stone Temple Pilots.
Meat Puppets returned the following year with its ninth studio album, No Joke! The album saw the band take on alternative rock, alternative rock, and grunge sonic influences. No Joke! is home to musical gems such as “Scum,” “Chemical Garden,” and “Taste of the Sun.” Unfortunately, bassist Cris Kirkwood and drummer Derrick Bostrom left the band after No Joke! The band also went on hiatus the following year.
In 1999, the band released the EP, You Love Me. Meat Puppets had a new lineup consisting of bassist Andrew Duplantis, guitarist Kyle Ellison, and drummer Shandon Sahm. The EP was the band’s last release issued through London Records. Meat Puppets later released its tenth studio album, Golden Lies, in 2000. Golden Lies was dedicated to Doug Sahm, a former member of the Sir Douglas Quintet. “Armed and Stupid” is one of the biggest hits by Meat Puppets from the album.
After seven years of no new music, Meat Puppets released its eleventh studio album, Rise to Your Knees. Rise to Your Knees saw the band welcome former bassist Cris Kirkwood to its lineup. Ted Marcus, on the hand, played the drums on this album issued through Anodyne Records. “Enemy Love Song” and “New Leaf” are some of the most popular songs by Meat Puppets from Rise to Your Knees.
In 2009, the band released its twelfth studio album, Sewn Together. The album was issued through Megaforce Records, once home to Metallica, The Black Crowes, Ministry, and Overkill. Sewn Together features primarily features the alternative rock sound with a touch of folk-rock and psychedelic rock sonic elements. “Rotten Shame” and “Sewn Together” are some of the musical gems from this twelve-track album.
Two years later, the band issued its thirteenth studio album (second issued through Megaforce Records), Lollipop. This twelve-track was poorly received by the band’s fans. The band went on to release another album in 2013 under the title Rat Farm. Rat Farm performed better than Lollipop, with critics praising the band’s magnificent psychedelic country hints in its songs.
In 2019, Meat Puppets released its most recent LP, Dusty Notes. The album featured the band’s original members, following the return of bassist Derrick Bostrom. Dusty Notes also featured Curt Kirkwood’s son Elmo on the backing guitar. Ron Stabinsky was also featured on the band’s lineup on the keyboards. Dusty Notes saw the band rejuvenate its ways back to mainstream success, peaking at number nineteen on the Billboard Top Alternative Albums chart. The album also managed to rise to number thirty-nine on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart. “Warranty,” “Nine Pins,” and a cover of “Sea of Heartbreak” by Don Gibson are some of the best Meat Puppets songs from the album.
Meat Puppets’ Legacy in Its Over Four Decades Career in Music
Forty years since the band was formed and still coming out strong! In fact, very few bands have shown resilience in the music scene, like Meat Puppets. Meat Puppets remains the longest surviving band among the acts that made SST Records a reputable record label. Away from the band’s resilience, we cannot forget the band’s impact in popularizing the country-punk music subgenre in the early and mid-’80s.
Meat Puppets remains one of the most influential bands from Arizona. As a result, the band was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2017. Some of the band’s fans initiated a petition to have the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Does the band make the cut to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Let us know in the comment section. Meanwhile, here are the top 10 Meat Puppets songs of all time.
#10 – Taste of the Sun
Ushering us to the ten best songs by Meat Puppets is the dazzling hit “Taste of the Sun.” The song was released as a promotional single to Meat Puppets’ 1995 album No Joke! Hits like “Taste of the Sun” is among the reasons the No Joke! managed to rise to position one hundred and eighty-three on the Billboard 200.
Curt Kirkwood, the band’s vocalist, is credited with having penned the song’s lyrics. The band hadn’t gone full throttle into mainstream rock and roll by the time it released No Joke! However, songs like “Taste of the Sun” hinted about the band’s evolution to some less punk-influenced records.
#9 – Warranty
Reunions of original band members offer bands a chance to rekindle their lost flame (however, not always). A reunion of the band’s original lineup for Meat Puppets worked perfectly, bringing the band back into the mainstream, thanks to the successful 2019 LP, Dusty Notes. The album is home to the ninth pick on our ten best songs from Meat Puppets, “Warranty.”
The band’s bassist commented on the remarkable vocals by Curt Kirkwood on this song. “Warranty” serves as the lead track to the band’s most recent album, Dusty Notes. The song strikes a balance between alternative rock, country rock, and psychedelic rock sonic influences.
#8 – Oh, Me
Our number eight spot on the top 10 Meat Puppets songs list goes to the hit “Oh, Me.” The song is the album title track to the band’s third studio album. “Oh, Me” is among the songs Nirvana performed for MTV Unplugged in New York. Curt and Cris Kirkwood joined Nirvana on stage to perform “Oh, Me” alongside two other hits by Meat Puppets. The aftermath of this was the release of the band’s only Gold-certified LP, Too High to Die, in 1994.
#7 – Scum
“Scum” is among the biggest hits from the band’s 1995 LP, No Joke! The song serves as the lead track to the album. Meat Puppets released a music video for “Scum.” The music video was directed the David Markey, who has also worked with other artists, including Black Flag and Mudhoney. “Scum” peaked at number twenty on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It also managed to rise to number twenty-three on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart.
#6 – Attacked by Monsters
Number six on our top 10 Meat Puppets songs list is the raging hit “Attacked by Monsters.” The song is featured on the band’s 1989 sixth studio album, Monsters. “Attacked by Monsters” serves as the album opener and the album title track. Vocalist Curt Kirkwood delivered a controlled yet outstanding vocal rhythm. The chunky guitar riffs in this song complement its fast-paced tempo while making “Attacked by Monsters” feel like a rampaging metal hit.
#5 – Sam
After parting ways with SST Records, Meat Puppets wished to try its luck with a major record label. London Records welcomed the band with open arms owing to its influential status on the music scene. The band went on to release its first LP, Forbidden Places, in 1991 through London Records. Forbidden Places performed better than the band’s previous album, Monsters, featuring some of the best Meat Puppets songs, including “Sam.”
“Sam” saw Curt Kirkwood unleash some fast-paced vocal delivery that seemed a little different from most of his vocals in other albums. This fiery rock ballad received a warm reception from Meat Puppets’ fans. “Sam” went on to peak at number thirteen on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart.
#4 – We Don’t Exist
Too High to Die brought Meat Puppets to newfound fame thanks to songs like “We Don’t Exist.” “We Don’t Exist” was issued as the first promotional single to the album in 1994. The song was penned by the band’s vocalist and guitarist Curt Kirkwood. “We Don’t Exist” had its music video nominated for the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards Best Rock Video accolade.
However, it lost to “More Human than Human” by White Zombie. Other songs that had been nominated for the award include “Basket Case” by Green Day and “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots. “We Don’t Exist” peaked at number twenty-eight on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
#3 – Plateau
“Plateau” comes in strong as the third pick of our top 10 Meat Puppets songs. The song is featured on the band’s sophomore album, Meat Puppets II. “Plateau” was a hit since its release. However, the song became popular after the Kirkwood brothers performed it at Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York. Plan B’s debut album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, had its title inspired by lyrics in “Plateau.”
#2 – Lake of Fire
As we mentioned earlier, Meat Puppets II was the band’s groundbreaking release. The album is home to the number two pick of our top 10 Meat Puppets songs list, “Lake of Fire.” “Lake of Fire” is among the first songs by Meat Puppets to feature the country-punk sonic influences. Nirvana covered “Lake of Fire” on their 1993 live album MTV Unplugged in New York.
“Lake of Fire” has also been covered by Lena Hall and Eric Bachmann. A hard rock version of “Lake of Fire” was featured on the band’s LP Too High to Die as a hidden track. “Lake of Fire” has been sampled in “Gravesend” by Lord of Brooklyn.
#1 – Backwater
Number one on our top 10 Meat Puppets songs list is the alluring hit “Backwater.” The song is one of the musical gems featured on the band’s most successful album, Too High to Die. “Backwater” is the only song by Meat Puppets to have made it to the Billboard Hot 100. The song peaked at number forty-seven on the Billboard 200.
“Backwater” also peaked at number eleven on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song became the band’s most successful hit after it was picked up by rock radio stations. “Backwater” is among the songs that ushered Meat Puppets into success in the mainstream rock scene.
Feature Photo: Vladimir, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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