Out of all of the bands that made SST Records a towering force in the American underground during the mid-'80s, Meat Puppets lasted the longest, surviving where other bands fell apart. Meat Puppets never had the dedicated following of Hüsker Dü or the Minutemen -- two fellow SST bands who played the same circuit as the Puppets -- but they were able to carve out a long career where other hardcore bands could not, because they always drew from conventional hard rock as well as punk. Not only did they play hard, loud, and fast, but they also had elements of the blues-rock of ZZ Top, the ambling folk-rock of the Grateful Dead, and Neil Young's country-rock and hard rock. As they grew older, the band matured musically, developing an accomplished instrumental technique and moving closer to the traditional hard rock that was always underneath their punk. But they never quite abandoned their punk roots, even when they briefly broke into the mainstream in the early '90s. The core of Meat Puppets was Curt (guitar; born January 10, 1959) and Cris Kirkwood (bass; born October 22, 1960), a pair of brothers born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. As teenagers, the Kirkwoods played in local rock & roll bands, primarily playing mainstream rock and hard rock. After graduating from a Jesuit prep school, the brothers formed Meat Puppets in 1980 with drummer Derrick Bostrom. Unlike the Kirkwoods' earlier bands, the Meat Puppets were directly inspired by punk rock; they were so committed to keeping the music punk that they refused to rehearse.
A little over a year after their formation, Meat Puppets released their first EP, In a Car, on World Imitation. At this point in their career, the band was at its noisiest, playing furious hardcore with avant-garde leanings. Greg Ginn, the lead guitarist for Black Flag and the head of SST Records, heard the record and offered the Meat Puppets a contract with SST. In 1982, the band released their full-length eponymous debut album on SST, which continued in the experimental vein of their EP.
Meat Puppets didn't develop their own distinctive voice until their second album, Meat Puppets II, which was released in 1984. On Meat Puppets II, the band created a fusion of punk and country that sounded unlike anything else in the American underground. With their second album and constant touring, Meat Puppets began to cultivate a dedicated cult following across the U.S. that continued to grow throughout the rest of the decade. In 1985, the group released their third album, Up on the Sun, which earned them their first reviews in mainstream music publications. Up on the Sun also demonstrated that the band was beginning to streamline their sound, moving closer to traditional blues-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia. This shift toward conventional hard rock continued throughout the late '80s, as the band gradually sanded away their rougher punk edges. Read more.