Imagine there was a parallel universe where the Eagles sounded really cool. Instead of going to the dark side of Wal-Mart branded corporate soft rock, Don, Glenn and the boys went out into the desert to get their heads straight and turn up their guitars. This conceit is the best way to describe Sewn Together, the reformed Meat Puppets’ sophomore effort. After working out the kinks on Rise to Your Knees, the brothers Kirkwood deliver a collection of aggressive, tuneful songs that highlights the rock end of the band’s multifaceted spectrum.
Even over a decade later, the Meat Puppets are still associated with their appearance on Nirvana’s Unplugged. Though they had been critical darlings for a decade at that point, the band took a strange trip to crossover stardom that marked the apex of the their visibility and the closest the band came to self-destruction. It’s unfortunate that a band with as rich a history as the Meat Puppets would be relegated to a peripheral role in the grunge movement they predated.
Fans familiar with the band from this period in their career will be disappointed with Sewn Together, but those in for the long haul will find a collection of songs closer to those that attracted Cobain’s attention in the first place. The dissonance is still there, but the simple power of the electric guitar is the primary focus of the instrumentation. The songs emerge from simple melody lines played on electric guitar, and the arrangements are left purposefully ragged. In an age when most music is filtered through six different machines before reaching the consumer, the rawness of Sewn Together is refreshing.
Though the album’s musical voice is generally upbeat and no frills, Kirkwood’s lyrics remain opaque. There is much meaning to be found (or imposed upon) songs like “Clone,” “Blanket of Weeds,” and the album’s title track, the song’s words generally remain subservient to the guitar lines. After all is said and done, the Meat Puppets have succeeded in making an album that maintains their iconoclastic reputation, but mostly just rocks. In a world where music increasingly lists toward prepackaged pop, an effort like Sewn Together has to be viewed as a success.