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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : Puppet Tunes

November 22, 1987|GINA ARNOLD

* * * MEAT PUPPETS. "Huevos." SST. Without ever straying far from inspirations drawn from the record collection of your average male mall rat, the Meat Puppets' music has an imaginative personality all its own.

Despite the fact that the band's closest sound-alikes are major commercial wonder units like ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin, the Pups get penalized in the mainstream market for being almost too intense--which may be why on their last LP, the pristine, mystical-sounding "Mirage," they backed off from rocking out for a more ordered world view and a beautiful but somewhat cold display of country-influenced pop virtuosity.

"Huevos," their fifth full-length LP and their second release in six months, is much looser, more live-sounding and more hot-and-bothered--in other words, closer to the band's very essence.

"Huevos" recalls 1985's acclaimed "Up on the Sun," with its hallucinogenic imagery, churning, boogie-bottomed rhythms and lazy, hypnotic flat-picked leads. The first track, "Paradise," is as hooky as songs get, as is the pithy little potential hit called "Bad Love" ("Compared to no love," sings Curt Kirkwood, "bad love can't be wrong").

The ballad-like "Sexy Music" is both soothing and amusing (lyrics like "emerald feathered goblins that cast their burning pearls to the ground" are par for the course in Kirkwood's repertoire). Harder, shorter numbers, such as "Crazy" and "I Can't Be Counted On," are just as original in both word and deed.

The Meat Puppets' metal-hearted mix of country, blues and punk never deviates from a very specific core sound that's really all their own. With its sloppy feel and powerful live sound, "Huevos" is the band's best effort yet in conveying its inner vision.

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