May 27, 1985 12:00 PM

Meat Puppets

An absurdist trio from Phoenix, this group classifies as a punk garage band. But even among that eccentric ilk, the Puppets are unique. Guitarist-singer-composer Curt Kirkwood staked out their territory on Meat Puppets II. Their latest album continues in that tradition, taking some of the thrash out of thrash music. The thrashers make a point of being out of control, yet Kirkwood has veered away from the insane velocity favored by the more hard-bitten groups. The result is strange. Despite their amateurish, almost self-parodying posture, the Puppets are accomplished. Kirk-wood’s guitar playing on Swimming Ground and the instrumental Seal Whales is strikingly inventive and mellifluous. It certainly sparkles in comparison with his droning voice, the group’s collapsed harmonies and the muffled production. Up on the Sun sounds subterranean, like a gaggle of mead-sodden trolls at a lease-breaking party. There are other saving graces, such as a sly playfulness most evident on Maiden’s Milk. Groups like Cleveland’s Pere Ubu proved long ago that pop music can come from pretty far out and still manage to tickle the ear drums. That is true of Up on the Sun. The Meat Puppets are definitely an acquired taste, but they should be able to find an audience willing to go through the acquisition process. (SST, P.O. Box 1, Lawndale, Calif. 90260)

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