Ever since bassist and co-founder Cris Kirkwood returned to the band in 2007 with the album Rise to Your Knees, the Meat Puppets have been striving to re-create the glorious sounds of their salad days in the 1980s and ‘90s, but they seem to have made a number of rather odd lateral moves on 2011's Lollipop. The album is much more of a studio creation than its most recent predecessors; Curt Kirkwood's guitars dominate the album, but along with layering several parts on many tunes, he's added synthesizers on several numbers, and the polished sheen of the recording tends to muffle the sense of interplay between the musicians and flattens out the vocals. (Shandon Sahm is credited as drummer on Lollipop, but the sound of the percussion and the simplicity of the beats suggest that a drum machine may actually be doing the work most of the time.) However, if the production and engineering aren't a great fit for the Meat Puppets, in terms of the songwriting this does a better job of re-creating the sunburnt psychedelia of Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun than anything they've done since leaving SST. The melodies are limber, and if they lean more to the pop end of the spectrum than usual, they suit Curt Kirkwood's guitar work very well indeed, while the goofball surrealism of the lyrics is a hoot, alternating tall tales with weed-fueled philosophizing that reaches its logical conclusion on "Damn Thing," where after declaring "chicken equals cow" and "words don't mean a thing," Curt sums it all up by telling listeners "I don't know a damn thing anyway." If these songs had been accompanied by the simple and straightforward production that served the Meat Puppets well on Up on the Sun and Huevos, Lollipop might have been an inspiring return to form; as it is, it's flawed but interesting enough to confirm there's still life left in this band, which (with any luck) the Meat Puppets will document in a more satisfying manner next time they record.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming