As far as I understand, the Meat Puppets never considered themselves a punk band, but just kind of let themselves be carried along, no pretense otherwise, but no real intention, by whatever they felt inside, whatever they liked and whatever resonated with them that was around them. Thus the Meat Puppets could be these insane monsters on this first ep and lp (and bonus early recordings) and then easily move on to being 'stoner country' (or something) and kind of funky, finger picking and dreamy, and 'college rock' (or something), and whatever else later in their 'career'.
So this is kind of punk, kind of hardcore punk even, but also not exactly, the categories being too limiting and pinning down unrealistically, and that fact also corresponds to the general feel of 'go with the flow, strip yourself bare, and let rip shamelessly' that permeates this release.
Never mind that 2 of the songs here (from their first lp, which makes up the first 14 tracks) are country oldies, even a traditional ('Tumblin' Tumbleweeds' & 'Walkin' Boss'), or that in the later, bonus, part of this CD (demos & live, by the sounds of it) there are covers of songs by the Grateful Dead, Neil Young & Harry Nilsson (and is the cover 'Hair' from the musical of that name? I don't know, but could that demented song really have come from there?); oh, and there's also a great cover of Iggy & the Stooges' 'I got a right' (it's just a great song anyway, and that demented meat puppet thing is just another nice context for it); but then that IS a punk classic.
I guess that was a major asset of most SST bands, and the culture of SST: just freely open to whatever influence, regardless of fashion, and a spirit of freedom and openness, and an enjoyment of the whole spectrum of living; dirt and human darkness, stupidity and childishness included.
But doesn't it just SOUND like 'let's just do what we want', even that no-one suggested it; they just lumbered onto stages and into practice areas with sunstroke from their native Arizona desert and it just kind of happened like that? Playing on the wrestling-ring stage of the Madison Square Gardens club in Phoenix (see cover of compilation 'this is Phoenix, not the Circle Jerks), in that heat, in that condition, with all those other crazy bands, and all that punk rock too, was just bound to rub off on them like that; or maybe they rubbed off on others.
Generally on this disc Curt Kirkwood (guitar, vocals) sounds like he's swaying about, sleepy, in a stupor, dribbling, losing the words, and occasionally lashing out at whoever may be there or who he imagines may be there, with bared teeth and long sharp, monster claws (strange that he looks and sounds so angelic in later pics and on later releases). His guitar is generally not punk rock barre chords, but crazy, loose, overdriving, (distantly) country-influenced licks on very metallic strings, to a frantic-and-free bass and drum backing.
So, besides the covers, we end up with mid-tempo to fast, crazy, wobbly, drivelling and raving, insane songs, a few hyper-intense, guitar feeding back already as it's plugged in, breakneck speed, wacko thrash songs (like 'Melons Rising', 'Electromud', 'The Goldmine', 'Dolphin Field' and 'Foreign Lawns'), and then, from their first ep (an orginal, World Imitation Records edition of which I am fortunate enough to still possess), two classics of extra-special loony beauty : 'Big House', which somehow simplifies it all and strips it down to to a twangy and silly version of all the above, and then the utterly brilliant 'Out in the Gardener', which is just a hypnotic bouncy puttering of bass and drums, with a wacky but almost sublime thin twang of some crazed and sleepy stoner cowboy.
I remember listening to this album in the record store, in 1982, and taking a while to decide to buy it, thinking I might find it unlistenable after a while, and the only person I ever seriously discussed the album with said as much: that it was unlistenable junk. Junk it is; inspired, transcendent, beautiful, godly junk.
This album is the infinite golden bliss of a Buddhist Monk's elightened inwardness fused and melted at heart-of-the-sun temperatures with a drunk fool's rabid primal scream.
'We played for you and you did not dance, we wailed and you did not listen, and John came neither eating or drinking, and you said he is possessed by a demon.'