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When it comes to crafting tunes, the Brothers Kirkwood smack formula asunder. On this 14th effort, the Puppets’ calm complexity sprawls through folk, reggae, blues, whammy hair rock, psychedelic grunge, boom-chick twang, and more. By masterfully layering tracks, these marionettes use rhythmic swagger to build momentum from which wild solos leap. Though Curt Kirkwood says he consciously tried to simplify the material for Rat Farm, it’s stacked with experimental effects. Trust: There’s 6-string freakout aplenty. On “One More Drop,” the guitar pans left then right, and a squealing ’70s riff rips. Curt’s bending gymnastics are feverish and expose an original who really can play it all. The laid-back vibe of that unmistakable drawl could easily fall into a safe pocket. Yet Rat Farm is both a genre Rubik’s Cube and a testament to how a group overflowing with talent has kept a signature groove over four decades while somehow bucking stagnancy.
Must-hear track: “Leave Your Head Alone”