Meat Puppets – Up On The Sun

At the time of this release in 1985 I was besotted with a whole clutch of American bands that made the British scene seem a little dull: Swans, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Minutemen, Big Black, The Replacements, Husker Du, REM and Meat Puppets. Mostly coming from a hardcore or art noise background, they livened rock up a bit and paved the way for the likes of Nirvana to break through (so they could make it all a bit dull and predictable).

The title track from the Meat Puppets third LP, Up On The Sun is a deliciously pretty mix of folk, psychedelia and country. The guitar playing – the rolling lead line, the scratchy rhythm and the interplay with the bass – is its most striking and attractive feature. Slightly mournful, it’s also gloriously uplifting, especially when it all pulls in for the bridge at 1:40.

Above it all are Curt Kirkwood’s vocals which, having played this song to many people over the years, can obviously seem a little jarring: a guitar playing friend of a friend once told me that while the guitar playing was perfect, the vocals just ruined the whole thing – but that’s what you get when you ask a musician. Apparently singing off-key or out of tune, the nonchalance of his singing belies the impassioned and somewhat fantastical nature of the lyrics whose incomprehensibility starts with “A long time ago I turned to myself and said ‘You are my daughter’” and grow ever more cryptic. Rather than distracting from the song, they make it seem all the more intriguing and unique.

Taken as a whole, what we have here is a sublimely sunny piece of psychedelic folk/country rock that, as prosaic as it sounds, can brighten anyone’s day.

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About Paul Saxton

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