REVIEW: THE MEAT PUPPETS – RAT FARM

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Reviewed by Bec Hennessy

I have always maintained a hatred for country. I’m allowed. I grew up in rural Australia. A lot of Garth Brooks and Lee Kernaghan. Which I know is only one small (awful) part of the genre, so I really should get over it.

The Meat Puppets are helping me get over it. I was aware of them the way most people probably are – the Nirvana MTV Unplugged set. For me, their original work never came close to Kurt’s  raw emotion. But, considering how much I worship Nirvana that’s kind of unfair. Besides, they’ve got an intimidating back catalogue and a kind of ‘we do whatever the fuck we want’ attitude toward each album (making for an eclectic discography) that I can respect.

Title track ‘Rat Farm’ has a countrified yet grungy sound. Then goes all ska on me. The rats joyously singing “Hallelujah I’m rotten to the core, I take what I want then I take a little more”. The boys’ dual vocals trading deep droning with pretty harmony. A wavery psychedelic guitar solo completes the picture. This song is catchy as hell and possibly my favourite.

One More Drop’ continues in the same vein, infectious country melodies washed with wailing guitar. I’m really getting into this psychedelic country thing they’ve got going on. A meeting of two genres I’d never even considered much individually. The slightly odd vocal stylings and the simple yet catchy country melodies, only broken up by trippy guitar solos are pretty endearing. Listen to “Again”, it’s exactly that.

Waiting” switches the tempo down with acoustic guitars and a pretty picked guitar solo. The vocals taking on more of a country twang too. It’s a nice change of pace and sounds a bit more like the MTV Unplugged session I’m familiar with. I love the odd chorus refrain of “Everything’s cool, and everything’s fine. And everything drives me, outta my mind. Look at them waiting in a dream”. The second half of the albums is much more country in general. The straight-up country twang of “Sometimes Blue” scares me, but I still can’t hate it.  It’s all riding country roads on a hazy afternoon, dust swirling around your beat up car with an esky riding shotgun. “River Rose” reminds me of something REM could have done. And that can’t be bad either.

A band that can make me like country deserves praise on that basis alone. But forget my petty prejudices. Supposedly this is these guys keeping it simple, which they are but with their own off kilter stamp. I’m keen to hear what they are gonna do next. A psychedelic country rock opera maybe?  Who cares, I’ll probably love that too.

4/5

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