Alt all-stars Adrift
by Alan Sculley
The three musicians also endured harsh tragedies within their former bands. Nirvana, of course, was cut short by the suicide of bandleader Kurt Cobain. Sublime was just getting its career off the ground when a heroin overdose claimed the life of frontman Bradley Nowell in May 1996. The original Meat Puppets came to an end because of the drug habit of Kirkwood's brother Cris, the band's bassist.
Gaugh said he thinks the tragic circumstances somehow may have played a role in bringing together the three musicians in Eyes Adrift. "It's invisible, almost like a ghost or a poltergeist," Gaugh said of the musicians' pasts. "And it's flying around, and it's seen these lost souls, these guys who have nothing but love for music and want to be creative and are well deserving of that. And whoosh, it swept us up together into one path, and it's just a way of the music saying, 'Hey, thanks for loving us so much. You guys have all been diligent soldiers. Now it's time to give you guys medals.'"
Last fall, Kirkwood was doing his first tour as a solo artist after his attempt to form a second edition of the Meat Puppets failed. When Kirkwood's tour came to Seattle, Novoselic came to the show. The Meat Puppets had opened shows for Nirvana. In fact, the Kirkwood brothers appeared on Nirvana's famous 1993 "MTV Unplugged" special. Novoselic asked Kirkwood if he would like to get together and jam. At almost the same exact time, Gaugh, who had quit his post-Sublime band, the Long Beach Dub Allstars, saw an ad for Kirkwood's Los Angeles gig.
"It was really weird and uncanny how it all kind of seemed to fall together," Gaugh said. "I've been a big fan of the Meat Puppets since way back. I used to see shows back in the old days. They were always one of my favorites. I knew he (Kirkwood) was doing the second Meat Puppets thing, the regrouping with the other members. And then I saw he was playing solo so it was like, 'Wow, things must not have worked out. I wonder if he wants to jam.'"
Before long the three musicians had convened in Kirkwood's hometown of Austin, Texas. Sparks flew and have carried through to the band's self-titled debut disc, which doesn't trade on the music of the trio's past bands as much as one might expect.
Those looking for traces of Nirvana and Sublime will have to dig deep. Only the imprint of the Meat Puppets' arid psychedelic sound carries through in an obvious way to Eyes Adrift, as songs such as "Untried," "Solid" and "Pyramids" bear the distinctive stamp of Kirkwood, who wrote most of the songs. Other songs explore musical territory that doesn't so easily recall any of the musician's famous former bands. "Sleight Of Hand" combines a jazzy, Latin rhythm, and a country feel in its guitars and horns into an evocative package. And "Inquiring Minds," a song about media intrusion written by Novoselic, is a ragged yet pretty rocker.
To Gaugh being in the group has been effortless, as well. "This has been the easiest project to tour on for me," said Gaugh, who noted that drug problems within the Long Beach Dub Allstars had played a major role in his decision to leave the band. "Other outfits I've toured with before have just been a lot of stress and a lot of bad feelings between people here, there and everywhere. It was kind of a bad situation. This one has just been so easy and effortless. It really has been. Our biggest effort has been on the stage and in the studio, and that's where it should be as a band. You should be enjoying what you're doing, and you should love your talent and try to excel at that in every way, shape and form."