Countrified and acid-fried, The Meat Puppets were among the Reagan-era underground’s most unique bands.
And they’re still here.
Thirty-three years strong, the Phoenix natives play Seattle’s Crocodile Thursday.
Co-founded by the Kirkwood brothers – singer-songwriter-guitarist Curt, and bassist Cris — the trio built its name on whimsical, mellowed-out sounds better suited for wide-open expanses than claustrophobic mosh pits.
Seminal work like 1984’s “Meat Puppets II” and ‘85’s “Up on the Sun” foreshadowed the ‘90s indie explosion by several years.
The Meat Puppets — the Pups, to their fans — did enjoy a brief moment in the grunge-era spotlight.
In 1993, Kurt Cobain, who’d seen the Pups open for Black Flag as a teenager, invited the Kirkwoods to sit in while Nirvana covered three of their songs — “Lake of Fire” (listen), “Plateau” (listen) and “Oh Me” (listen) — for its legendary “Unplugged in New York.”
The brothers later scored a hit single of their own — “Backwater” (listen), from 1994’s “Too High to Die” — which remains an alternative-rock radio favorite.
But they were M.I.A. for most of the next decade, sidelined by substance abuse and bad life choices. At one point, Cris spent a year in jail, during which longtime drummer Derrick Bostrom quit.
Somehow, against long odds, the band picked up the pieces. This year’s “Rat Farm” is its third new LP since 2007, and live, the sibling three-piece is now a multi-generational quartet, with Curt’s 28-year-old son Elmo on rhythm guitar.
While time and sobriety have softened the Kirkwoods’ weirder edges, the 12-song set still brims with jangle, optimism and soul — not unlike the Pups of old.
Stream “Rat Farm” in its entirety here.The Meat Puppets, The World Takes, Trashfire
8 p.m. Thursday at the Crocodile, 2200 2nd Ave., Seattle; $14 (206-441-4618 or thecrocodile.com)