While the Meat Puppets wisely resisted the temptation to call this album "Cris Kirkwood's Back," in many respects the return of the group's troubled bass player signifies an effort by the Pups to reclaim their former glories. Recorded in a simple, straightforward fashion, with guitarist and vision guy Curt Kirkwood in the producer's chair and released by an independent label, Rise to Your Knees harkens back to the Meat Puppets' glory days on SST, though the often chunky guitar tone and rhythmic stability has more in common with Too High to Die and Forbidden Places than the playful, sunburnt joy of Meat Puppets II and Up on the Sun. Rise to Your Knees gives off an amiable, laid-back vibe that's cleaner and more technically accomplished than the classic recordings of the Meat Puppets' first era, but still glimmers with the Kirkwood Brothers love of ballsy psychedelia, and while Curt Kirkwood has given himself more impressive guitar showcases in the past, the noisy assault of "Light the Fire," "Vultures" and "Disappear" will satisfy fans hoping to hear him show off his estimable skills, though his touch doesn't seem to be quite as light or as sure as it once was. Rise to Your Knees feels like an effort by the Meat Puppets to give their most loyal fans what they want -- trimming the lineup back to a three piece after recording 2000s Golden Lies as a quartet and losing a bit of the pop polish they picked up during their days on a major label -- and it certainly delivers a fair share of the goods, but unfortunately there aren't any songs here that can stand beside "Lake of Fire," "Up on the Sun" or "Paradise," and ultimately, this music sounds good when you keep wishing for it to be great. Given the hard road the Kirkwood Brothers have had to follow since last recording together, the mere fact they've been able to come together to make an album as solid and coherent as Rise to Your Knees is little short of miraculous, but it pales in comparison to the Meat Puppets best music and suggests that they still have a ways to go before they're fully back in fighting shape.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming