Something that gets said about the Meat Puppets is that the first three albums are amazing (which they certainly are) and the rest not worth bothering with. Browsing songs from the later records that I've yet to buy, I've found a lot of them to be terribly good, even if the records don't stand up well next to II and Up on the Sun. But then, few records seem to. Shortly after Up on the Sun, album number three, the band went and recorded an EP to keep the momentum going, and this was the result, and frankly if you think this isn't worth bothering with I don't know what to do with you.
The sound of the record is not unlike the album it followed, with hazy psychedelia and twitchy funk clashing to form a cheerful sunny sound, with the (potentially very stoned) Kirkwood brothers droning the vocals in a detached, laid back manner. However, there is perhaps a certain confidence to it that Up on the Sun lacks (and also a couple of returns to the country-ish sound of II). When "She's Hot" kicks in one can hear the big, hefty production that the Meat Puppets found with a new studio and producer (Sun was blighted â?? slightly â?? by the somewhat cack-handed Spot of SST fame manning the boards). On this number there's more of a classic rock influence than usual, and the lyrics talk not of animals living in your brain or pistachio nuts, but of women being, like, hot (admittedly they do not do this very well; the strength of the song is the music). And not only is the musicianship improved, with the brothers shooting out more nimble riffs and bass lines, but Curt Kirkwood indulges in many crisp, gorgeous guitar solos, rather than minimising them, making them deeply unsettling, or messing them up because he was on drugs.
Then for three tracks, things lean towards the psychedelic. The title track is slower and more pensive lyrically and has even more face meltingly, orgasmically good guitar and bass work. "Other Kinds of Love" is of a similar pace but has gorgeous, sitar like guitar licks and a bizarre whooshing guitar noise that plays. "Not Swimming Ground" is just amazing. The tune is one of their fastest paced and starts jaunty, with country-like picking, gains a slight transcendent quality in the chorus, then shoots back to jaunty again seamlessly. Further in there's a sudden, unexpected and truly joyous finger-tapping solo and after the final chorus the song ends with an outro that sounds something like a fighter jet made of magic taking off. From a guitarist's perspective this EP is an absolute treat, whilst still being palatable to the casual listener.
The last couple of songs aren't as far-out and hippie-ish. "Mountain Line" is a rockabilly number, more like some of the songs on II but cleaner and less manic; given that this is the Meat Puppets though, it's still pretty weird. Curt gives us another amazing solo; less expansive, more snappy. Then finally, there's a barely recognisable cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly", which builds on the comparatively mild mania of "Mountain Line". It's nearly unrecognisable, skewed and slaughtered in a manner not unlike the band's take on "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" from the first album (though perhaps not as horrendous sounding as that). It's good in its way, but it feels a bit out-of-place here; it was apparently a number the Pups had been playing for several years, when their overall sound was markedly different, and only recorded on a whim.
A couple of other things hold the EP back. Those first three songs are all great, but can get a little bit repetitive- the riffs, lyrics and structures, though almost entirely wonderful, don't vary enough at times (though with the title track it doesn't matter, because it's good enough to go on forever). This is exacerbated by the fact Derrick Bostrom never got the time to prepare his drumming for the more advanced songs he was playing along with. His skills didn't, by his own admittance, catch up with the increasingly masterful shredding of Curt and Cris, and as a result the drums on the EP are somewhat drab; pretty much the same straight beat all the way through until the last two songs. Had he put a bit more funk in, and a few more fills, the record would have been a whole lot better.
Nonetheless, this EP rocks hard. If you already like the Meat Puppets, in particular "Up on the Sun", then this is a good buy. If they'd taken the better tracks from this and Mirage, given Derrick time to improve his drumming, and put it all on a disc, they'd probably have put out another absolutely classic album.
Finally, a word on the Rykodisc reissue. The Meat Puppets actually managed to get their recordings off of SST, and as such the record has a shiny new remaster, a guarantee that the artists will see some of the money if you buy it, and some bonus tracks; these make the disc longer than many albums. Plus, the tracks are good; "On the Move" was originally set to finish the album, and is a great cowpunk number; "Boyhood Home" and a downright disturbing take on "I Just Want to Make Love to You" are paranoid early Meat Puppets fare; "Burn the Honky Tonk Down" is a strange-yet-straight country cover; "Backwards Drums" is a surprisingly good tripped-out instrumental piece. The last two tracks (some loose demo stuff) are a bit pointless, but you can't have everything.