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Curt Kirkwood, ‘Snow’ (Little Dog)

Meat Puppets

Snow is a very good album. It’s comprised of ten lovely songs, country- and folk-inflected pop tunes that make you want to drink very cheap, very cold beer in a dive bar at eight in the morning, preferably while snow turns gray in the traffic outside. “Beautiful Weapon” has probably the most memorable, sing-along chorus, while “Light Bulb” has a lively, spiraling verse structure. It’s an album by an artist who knew what he wanted to do, and has gone ahead and done it. “Does what it says on the tin,” the British would likely say.

But expectations are a bastard. Curt Kirkwood is probably best known as guitarist and founding member of the Meat Puppets. The Meat Puppets are, realistically, best known for their 1994 radio hit “Backwater.” And after that, they’re probably best known as the longhaired guys who performed a few songs with Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Beyond that, though — and probably ahead of both those, to music fans of a certain stripe — the Meat Puppets were known as an almost completely unclassifiable act, a talented rock/punk/country/psychedelic hybrid.

The straightforward approach Kirkwood uses on Snow, his first solo effort, is therefore somewhat underwhelming. This is patently unfair, and probably ridiculous. Snow is not a Meat Puppets album. Expecting it to be one is like expecting Batman Begins to be filmed entirely in reverse just because the director also made Memento.

Once you divest yourself of expectations — and the Meat Puppets were an extremely versatile, extremely influential band, so it can be tough — Snow stands revealed as a mature work, well worth listening to and almost perfect at what it does.

What it doesn’t do is fill the craving for a new Meat Puppets record.