The New and the Old

Young Turks of The 1990s meet the Meat Puppets and Nick Lowe


The 1990s

Cookies (Rough Trade)

In today's Britain, it seems that it's more important for musicians to play at being rock stars than it is to focus on sundry duties of songwriting and playing shows. Thanks to lovely publications like the New Musical Express , which is indeed funny, the rock'n'roll world is reduced to a milieu where â“starsâ” emerge at the blink of an eye: their primary function being to sport foolish haircuts, provide catty repartee and make asses out of themselves in public, all providing grist for tabloid fodder.

The 1990s' frontman, John McKeown, is tailor-suited for this function, having once been a member of Yummy Fur, a group that also boasted two members of the highly touted Franz Ferdinand in its ranks. The lyrical thrust of his band's debut album, Cookies , focuses on the travails of being a rock star in the making. In fact, McKeon is so obsessed with his impending fame that he seems to have forgotten that he was a loser like you and me only a few years back.

Cookies bounces along pleasantly enough, chock full of the pogo-speed riffs, catchy choruses, and cocksure sass we've come to expect from this week's lad rock heroes, no matter what week this actually happens to be. Combining the twang'n'bash guitar histrionics of The Libertines with the self-referencing satire of Art Brut, the album is good for a few laughs when the party starts to lag. Hey, there're even a couple of memorable songs about becoming an indie rock sensation packed amongst the dross tunes about, natch, becoming an indie rock sensation! â" John Sewell

Meat Puppets

Rise To Your Knees (Anodyne)

A band with a truly vexing career arc, Arizona's Meat Puppets found notoriety, along with the Minutemen, as ill-fitting members of the SST post-hardcore gang. On several tours with Black Flag, the Puppets confounded thrashers everywhere by blending Southwestern cowboy music with jazzy textures, a garage/punk aesthetic, and heaping doses of psychedelia. And somehow this oddball band became popular in the process, delivering a sound that could truly be described as â“alternative country.â” After the hardcore madness fizzled, the band soldiered on as grunge forefathers, before quietly rolling away, like tumbleweeds, in the mid-'90s.

Pan to 2007 and the inevitable comeback, which, in this case, is certainly valid. The new album, Rise To Your Knees , returns to the sound of the group's classic recordings, which never really fit into a particular niche, and therefore had a timeless quality of their own.

Rise showcases a band that is, yet again, in the throes of lysergic ecstasy. Like an edgy, postmodern Grateful Dead minus the self-indulgent guitar wankery, the Meats wander blissfully through a handful of whimsically easygoing tracks about, well, something mystical? Whatever it is they're communicating, it sure sounds good. This is the band that should've been called Pure Prairie League. Welcome back. â" J.S.

Nick Lowe

At My Age (Yep Rock)

Nick Lowe has mellowed. I guess the cover of his new CD, At My Age, depicting the weathered 58 year-old in an almost grandfatherly pose should have been a hint.

Of the godfathers (along with Elvis Costello and The Ramones) of the punky new wave that took pop music by storm in the late '70s, Lowe has always been the most enigmatic. His marriage to Carlene Carter, the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, was initially one of the great head-scratchers of the time. It made a little more sense when the music of Lowe, along with his Rockpile band mates Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremer and Terry Williams, was dissected and attributed to its main influences; the American Rockabilly of Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins and, yes, Johnny Cash.

So though it may come as a disappointment to some that Lowe's latest effort is a laid-back country-flavored effort that would play well in a mix of Grand Ol' Opry standards.

It's a nice, melodic record, kind of Sunday afternoon fare. And just because there's an absence of the infectious power pop sizzle that made him famous, it can't be faulted. At this point in his career, Lowe is a seasoned artist very comfortable in his own skin, obviously seeing no reason to try to appease his core fandom.

Just be warnedâ"if you are looking for a throwback to Pure Pop for Now People , it would be cruel and not kind to recommend this. But if you just want to check in with one of the great pop icons of the past three decades, dig this you might. â"Brad Case


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