Curt Kirkwood isn’t lying when he claims Meat Puppets never actually disbanded, but Rise to Your Knees, the first studio release from the band in seven years, is a welcome return all the same. On the merits of its songwriting and relaxed artistry alone, it’s a satisfying listen. Hearing Cris Kirkwood playing bass alongside Curt again makes it a cause for celebration.
It can’t be overstated how surprising it was to discover that the brothers rejoined to record Rise to Your Knees — stories of his heroin addiction, an eighteen-month prison sentence and the death of his wife portended an irrevocable slide into oblivion. Yet all these years later, the result of the reunion of the Meat Puppets’ familial core is a warm and, daresay, gentle endeavor, nearly as solid as anything recorded in their younger days.
On Rise to Your Knees, the casual, garage aesthetic of the Puppets remains intact, from the lazy, doleful banjo picking on “Tiny Kingdom” to the goofy Rasta groove of “Enemy Love Song.” “Vultures” conjures forth the twisted feedback and arid Arizona imagery that were always the cornerstone of Meat Puppets’ formative years. Curt’s production is as full-bodied and sharp as his minimalist sensibilities will allow — it sounds good enough to be a Meat Puppets album.
Much of Rise to Your Knees probably would have been right at home in 1992, but Curt and Cris’s style was and still is timeless, and they’ve been able to avoid the grunge or post-punk albatross that’s hung around the necks of many of their then-peers. Curt has aged gracefully, no longer the loudest or edgiest guy in the room but still channeling that fire when necessary. This is the kind of third act most bands would sell their soul for — and it appears that the members of the Meat Puppets still have theirs.