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Music Video Distributors presents
Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties (2003)

"We'll do another song if you give us our microphone back."
- Cris Kirkwood (to audience)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: April 28, 2003

Stars: Cris Kirkwood, Curt Kirkwood, Derrick Bostrom
Other Stars: Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, Flea
Director: Unknown

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains mild language)
Run Time: 0h:53m:49s
Release Date: April 22, 2003
UPC: 022891003090
Genre: alternative

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BCC+ A-

DVD Review

Forming in Phoenix in 1980, the Meat Puppets' underground cult status continued to rise throughout the mid-'80s with each successive release. Comprised of Cris (guitar) and Curt (bass) Kirkwood and Derrick Bostrom (drums), the band released still-classic albums like Meat Puppets II and Up On the Sun. Presenting a unique mixture of hard rock, country, and folk rock with a punk mentality, the Meat Puppets carved an interesting niche for SST Records. This label was known mostly for such heavier acts as The Minutemen and Husker Du, but their do-it-yourself attitude meshed nicely with these bands.

After fading in the late '80s and early '90s, the Meat Puppets scored a surprising level of popularity with the release of Too High to Die in 1994. Based mostly on the hit single Backwater and the endless airings of their appearance on Nirvana's Unplugged show, the guys garnered numerous converts. The Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties showcases several live appearances during this late heyday. Much of the material stems from the popular record, but a few surprise inclusions do arise. While the image and sound quality is pretty awful for certain tunes, this feature does provide a decent overview of the Meat Puppets' sound.

The set begins with Attacked by Monsters, a raucous rocker with long guitar and drum solos. Depicting the rougher side of the Meat Puppets, it immediately contradicts the mellower, more acoustic side prevalent on their hit album. Next up is Backwatera decent track that is less favorable now due to constant alternative airplay in 1994. The more upbeat numbers showcase a pure joy of performing that explains the Puppets' devout fanbase. Shot at the Velvet Siego in Italy, Automatic Mojo really presents the band going crazy.

Another new venture during the 1994 tour were in-store appearances that allowed the guys to do acoustic performances. This provided a worthy avenue for goofy tracks like Station and slow, classic tracks like Plateau. It also gave them a chance to re-invent such fast numbers as Violet Eyes and Sam in a more intimate setting. While it varied considerably from the crazy, unhearsed method of the earlier years, it worked surprisingly well for the Puppets. Many of the songs included here stem from in-store appearances during 1994. While it is a minor shame not to witness more rock numbers, it does help to explain their popularity at the time. Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties may not provide a complete overview, but it does give us a glimpse into an original band at their commercial peak.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A majority of the footage included in Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties is poorly produced home-video quality material. This makes grading the DVD transfer more difficult, because most flaws relate to the source material. Especially poor is the Italian video, which contains a line across the top and very dark lighting. Considering that no digital enhancements were given to the footage, this release is disappointing on an overall scale. I understand the unfortunate quality and it does add a raw side to the feature, but it fails on a technical level.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: My comments above concerning the image transfer apply in a similar manner to the this disc's poor audio quality. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track improves the original sound by injecting more power and depth, but it still provides a muddled sound. This audio is much improved over the alternate stereo track, which is very centralized and limited.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
6 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. "We Don't Exist" music video
  2. Slideshow
Extras Review: Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties is probably more valuable for its decent collection of additional footage. The oddest entry is easily an episode of Video Wave, a low-budget New York show with host Bonnie Beat in the late '80s. Running for about seven minutes, the interview contains very basic questions like "How is alternative music faring these days?" and some strange extreme closeups. Curt Kirkwood appears alone and is still able to inject some worthwhile thoughts. More interesting is "Bostrom's Anecdotes," a seven-minute clip of the drummer giving stories that relate to the main feature. The most intriguing moments cover the 1994 tour with the Stone Temple Pilots, which placed them in an awkward new setting.

The Big Bottom Summit brings together legendary bass players Mike Watt, Flea, and Cris Kirkwood for a discussion about music and their instrument. While this feature contains some areas where the audio cuts out (possibly to block curse words), it still is a compelling extra. Watt always has plenty to say, and Flea's comments about making money reveal a bit about his personality. The interview entries are rounded out with quick individual discussions with Watt and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. Both discuss the Meat Puppets and praise them while remaining genuine. Moore's story about an early gig with the guys is very enjoyable.

The remaining supplements include the black & white We Don't Exist video, a slide show, and a kinetic rendition of Good Golly Miss Molly. The slide show runs for nearly four minutes over music and includes plenty of random band photos. The cover performance is pretty poor, but it does present another example of the Meat Puppets' creative side.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

I first caught the Meat Puppets live at a club date in May of 1994, and their infectious energy really captured the audience throughout the set. That fall, they returned to the local ampitheater opening for the monstrosity that was the Stone Temple Pilots. Playing 45 minutes to a crowd that mostly knew only Backwater, the guys still delivered a solid show. However, this performance was missing the same ferocity conveyed at the smaller venue. Meat Puppets: Alive in the Nineties is a sloppy compilation, but it does capture the live energy that has carried this unique act for many years.


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