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CD Review

MEAT PUPPETS: CLASSIC PUPPETS

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Brewing up a compilation album for a dyed-in-the-chin-wool underground band like the Meat Puppets cannot be an easy task. As the seminal Arizona punky-tonkers never released a single or received mainstream airplay until their 1993 No.1 "Backwater," any attempt to mint their greatest "hits" feels more like a fan's mix tape than a treasury. Luckily, original drummer and Puppets archivist Derrick Bostrom envisioned the 1980s anthology Classic Puppets as an introductory "roadmap" to the Puppets' "capricious Gordian knot of a catalog" rather than an end-all fix. Of course, the Nirvana-covered beginning guitar staples "Plateau" and "Lake of Fire," are included, as are lush desert anthems "Up on the Sun" and "Two Rivers" from the Puppets' 1985 magnum opus Up on the Sun. If these classics are accompanied by a few suspect choices—the interminable "Sexy Music" and the shtick George Jones cover "Burn the Honky Tonk Down"—Bostrom's taste is still forgivable. He is, after all, attempting to distill the phases of a band whose strength lies in an ability to swap musical genres like other punks do strains of hepatitis. From free-form shriek-core to genuine twang to ZZ-Top-ish shuffle boogie, the Puppets elevated everything they touched, just as Classic Puppets will do for a boring CD collection.

—Nicholas Collias