You wouldn't know it by the warm, psychedelic folk-rock of its latest album "Sewn Together," but five years ago it looked as if the Meat Puppets had been permanently hung out to dry.
Bassist Cris Kirkwood, whose drug addiction escalated following the band's mid-'90s commercial peak, had lost his wife to an overdose (in 1998), gained almost 150 pounds, and was serving 18 months for assaulting a security guard who shot Kirkwood during the scuffle.
Curt Kirkwood wasn't necessarily waiting for his brother to come around. He continued playing music both in the band they founded in 1980, solo, and as a member of Eyes Adrift with Nirvana's Krist Novoselic.
"I'm pretty satisfied if I've got a band going," he told the Observer last week. "Cris is fun to play with, and that's kind of like the original deal (of the Meat Puppets). I'm not sentimental, but we do have a good chemistry."
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The Kirkwoods reconnected after Cris, 49, was released from prison in July 2005. "Sewn Together" is the Meat Puppets' second album since regrouping. The trio perform Tuesday at Visulite Theatre.
"I'm glad to see he's not being a stinker anymore," says the now-50-year-old Curt Kirkwood, matter-of-factly. "He just had to clean up and get out of prison and quit being a cretin."
There's no denying Cris' troubles helped derail the momentum that started when the brothers backed Nirvana on a few Meat Puppets' tunes during 1993's legendary "MTV Unplugged in New York" performance and peaked with the Puppets' 1994 album "Too High to Die," its all-time best-seller.
But Curt Kirkwood needs look no further than Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's death to know things could have been worse. Curt still gets a little sentimental about "Unplugged," 16 years after it first aired.
"It reminds me of a home movie of Christmas with the family as a kid.... Everybody's excited. Everybody gets their present, and then goes and gets wasted. It has that kind of feel to me," he says of the DVD. "It's unplugged music, but there's something compelling about just watching it too. (Part of it is) the circumstances, I'm sure. You know, like 'There's Montgomery Clift. Wasn't he wonderful?'"