7:15 p.m. Sunday
Along with head-banging brethren Hüsker Dü and the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets formed a hardcore Holy Trinity of underground 1980s punk rock. All three bands were signed to SST Records, the imprint founded in 1978 by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, whose necessity-birthed label (no companies would back Ginn's first group, Panic) is now considered an influential standard-bearer and sturdy bridge from punk and hard rock — nascent niches in the early '80s — to today's college radio and indie rock masses.
Much of the crossover can be attributed to Cris and Curt Kirkwood, the Phoenix, Ariz., brothers behind the Meat Puppets. The band's eponymous first two albums for SST, Meat Puppets (1982) and Meat Puppets II (1984), are like litmus tests of the hardcore scene's half-life: the former a fast and sloppy thrash, the latter an eclectic head trip touching on punk and hard rock but also experimental country and psychedelic pop.
The transition from monochrome to Technicolor was complete with 1985's folk-influenced Up on the Sun, an off-key warble that divided fans but cemented the Puppets as cowpunk emigres whose wandering eyes had gone forever crossed. The band fell out of creative favor after breaking up briefly and leaving SST for London Records in 1991. But it landed its biggest commercial success there: 1994's Too High to Die. The album went gold, outsold the Puppets' previous seven albums combined and featured the breakout hit "Backwater," which climbed to No. 2 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart. Punk's bad boys had gone pure.
Two more breakups (in 1996 and 2002) largely due to drug dependence and personal struggles would afflict the band over the next decade. (Cris' wife died from an overdose in 1998; he was shot, and later imprisoned, via a scuffle with a security guard in 2003.) The Puppets' improbable second (third?) act began in 2006, when Curt surveyed fans' interest in a reunion on its MySpace Web site. The resuscitated group has issued two well-received albums, Rise to Your Knees (2007) and Sewn Together, which appeared on Megaforce Records in May. — Noah Bonaparte Pais