Review Summary: Aged beef.
If I were to ascribe one adjective to Dusty Notes
, “mature” is what I would go with. That’s hardly surprising when you realize that it’s been more than 30 years since Meat Puppets II
came out. In those years we've seen the group go from cowpunk to alt-country and, while its no II
, this new record is an interesting look into the musical mindset of aging trailblazers. Dusty Notes
is much more valuable in that regard as this is the first time the original line-up has made a record together since 1995’s No Joke
and you can hear it. The band’s charisma reminds me of post-reunion Ween, generally ecstatic to be back together and ready to continue jamming like the old days.
Yet, in all honesty, this sound doesn't register as Meat Puppets to me. When I think of these guys, I think of the fuzzed out guitars and the weird song progressions of “Plateau,” “In a Car,” and “Lake of Fire,” not the smooth twang-isms of “Outflow” and “On.” That’s not a point against Dusty Notes
, it’s just really jarring to hear, even after listening to their entire discography and getting an idea of the progression to this point. But still, from the exceptional bass grooves to the fun, country-pop songwriting, there’s quite a bit to like about this. Bright lead riffs and solos, too, make up much of the songs here, which almost always have a damn solid hook and some fun melodies in the verses.
There’s also a very pleasant attitude to this one, with songs like “The Great Awakening” and “Nightcap” offering an affirmative-sounding and almost peaceful take on this style. But that’s not to say that every track is tranquil. “Warranty” is a mid-paced jam-out, “Vampyr's Winged Fantasy” is a weird synth-heavy rocker, and “Dusty Notes” is a remarkably warm folk track. There’s a decent amount of variety that rewards multiple listens, revealing itself like a blooming flower.
There’s just something to Dusty Notes
that’s incredibly endearing to me as a Meat Puppets. It’s admittedly safe and not incredibly memorable, but that charisma I mentioned earlier practically bleeds out of songs like “Nine Pins” and “Warranty.” For all intents and purposes, you can hear how much fun they had recording it. Not every song hits (“Unfrozen Memory” and “On” specifically aren't particularly memorable), but even said lesser songs still have something to like about them. There’s just this kind of unabashed passion that makes this one a lot better than it has any right to be.