Sound: The Meat Puppets may not ring a bell with some younger listeners out there, but the alternative band that hit somewhat of a peak in the '90s is back with its 11th studio full-length and the effects-heavy guitar work makes it definitely worth a listen. Rise To Your Knees is the band's first release in 6 years (after a brief hiatus), and it features some classic amp feedback and extremely memorable guitar solos on the 15-track CD. The Meat Puppets could be considered an acquired taste, with vocalist/guitarist Curt Kirkwood's somewhat emotionless vocal style, but the music behind it all does usually save the day.
Although many track on the CD have a fun quality similar to what you'd hear on the '90s hit Backwater, the band (rounded out by bassist Cris Kirkwood and drummer Ted Marcus) is at it's strongest with moodier fare. The opener Fly Like The Wind is actually a rather dark track featuring haunting riffage from guitarist/vocalist Curtis Kirkwood. It goes from being down tempo to having barely any tempo at all, and it allows the Pink Floyd-esque guitar work to take the spotlight. Stone Eyes is another highlight on the record, using Middle-Eastern styled vocals at one point and using some minor chords that suit the intense solo work.
Spit almost has a Santana feel, not because it has a Latin flavor by any means but because the guitar is basically doing its own thing all throughout the verse and chorus. It makes for an intriguing listen because your ears are at times torn between listening to the vocals and the guitar parts. In the final moments the guitar is given free reign over the song, and although brief, the solo ties up the song perfectly.
In the song Island the band takes a country turn for much of the beginning portion, but it's soon obvious that The Meat Puppets have no intention of being penned into one genre. The guitar solo has almost a Billy Corgan feel to it, and it's a fairly odd transition. The band deserves credit for mish-meshing different styles into one song, but the verse and chorus are a bit too redundant up until that point. The problem of monotony rears it's head more than a few times in the album, and that's probably the main issue with the album. // 7
Lyrics: There's definitely a clever quality about most of the lyrics on Rise To Your Knees. When you look at songs as a whole they are at times vague in meaning, but Kirkwood still knows how to pen an interesting line. One example is in Stone Eyes, which lists various shortcomings in life in a cynical fashion. Kirkwood sings, Try to hold it, but it vanishes from my hand; Try to swim and I end up on the cold sand. Pretty much every line tells of some shortcoming of life, but Kirkwood words each one in a way that is fairly unique. While most of the songs do feature interesting lyrics, the band does have a tendency at times to get repetitive and it loses something along the way. // 8
Overall Impression: For Meat Puppet fans, there are enough sonic, feedback-filled moments on the latest CD to be a satisfying addition to the band's catalog. The vocals are not the most thrilling, but the shortcomings are aided by solid harmonies and even vocal doubling throughout the record. There are more than a few repetitive moments on the record primarily because of the vocal delivery, but the band usually takes the song in a few different directions to make up for a dull verse. And when it comes down to it, Kirkwood's guitar playing is 100 percent the highlight. // 7