Sewn Together marks a dozen 'Puppets albums. From a catalog perspective, it seems to have more in common with the studio craftiness of 1987's Mirage than the golden, melodic, hard rock of 1994's Too High to Die. Curt Kirkwood extends his patented, fantastic imagery a few feet further out, within a production pallet that emphasizes layered depth, and instrumentation that feels carefully tumbledown. After thirty years as an off-and-on band, it might be inhumane to expect a masterpiece from the addled maestros. However, Sewn Together is a satisfying recording that any fan of post-punk Americana might invite in and, should one come to it without knowing jack about the Meat Puppets, it might offer a whiff of roosty freshness. Sewn Together's title track is a sunny, deceptively lackadaisical ditty that sets the tone perfectly; noticeably compressed with all manner of slung stringed instruments, under simple, thoughtful lyrics that cozy up to a brisk, triple-tracked chorus. "Blanket of Weeds" follows, offering the sort of driving tuneage found on the band's more spontaneous recordings (though, here, a little over-punctuated by a vibraslap). As the album progresses it loses some juice, overtaken by vague jams that invade the center of almost every song. Kirkwood seems unwilling to use a bridge, so that all the riffing away droops lamely between versus. Sewn Together's centerpiece song is "Sapphire." It's a quiet, reflective number worthy of peers like Bob Mould, Lou Barlow, or maybe Thurston Moore, featuring a jumble of saloon-style piano lines that flank Kirkwood's drawling, psychedelic pith: "In the cavern of night where the river of thirst / Runs its terrible course / Burns a crystal black flame in the cold silver eyes / Of a sapphire blue horse." Such lines, longer than Kirkwood might have been able to wield in his finest hour, have an awkward confidence. That is one element of aging gracefully, achieved. [Megaforce]

-Patrick Whalen



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