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MUSIC MEAT PUPPETS : Hauling the Thrash : Despite a recent quantum jump to a big-time recording company, the threesome seems unchanged.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Meatheads are more than just namesakes of Archie Bunker’s son-in-law. They’re also fans of Arizona’s Meat Puppets, who will be playing at the Anaconda Theatre in Isla Vista on Saturday night along with those cheesy S.B. locals, Rogue Cheddar.

The Meat Puppets released eight albums on minuscule SST Records, a way of guaranteeing that no one would ever hear them. The new one, “Forbidden Places,” is just out on London Records, a Polygram alias, and thus, a major label. Big label, little label, no label--label-shmabel, it all seems to be the same thing to the Meat Puppets.

“Some things never change,” said bass player Cris Kirkwood in an interview. “We went from touring in vans to an RV, then from hotel to hotel to the Betty Ford clinic and back again.”

Since there are only three members, and two of them are named Kirkwood, nepotism appears likely. Kirkwood’s brother, Curt, plays lead guitar and sings while Derrick Bostrom beats on the drums. It’s all louder than Tipper Gore booing at a Slayer concert.

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“Obnoxious. Repellent. Unintelligible,” said Cris Kirkwood, describing his band’s sound and proving once more that some characteristics of rock ‘n’ roll never change. “Our intensity probably came from riding motorcycles--Curt and I used to have these 750 Interceptors that wouldn’t go under 95 m.p.h. We were just the wrong kind of people to have something like that.”

The Meat Puppets have kept it going since 1980, managing at the same time to avoid the dreaded day job. Much of this has to do with college radio--these are the stations that play all the good non-commercial stuff that isn’t on MTV and isn’t yet a hit. That’s where R.E.M. came from, and that’s where the Meat Puppets have been.

“College radio has been there for us all along,” Kirkwood said. “When we made our first seven-inch (record) back in 1981, we were surprised that anyone wanted to make it in the first place. Then we were surprised that it was salable. When we went to San Francisco, we found that we were No. 1 on the charts up there. We thought, ‘huh?’ College radio is the only one that plays us.”

The Meat Puppets have been around long enough to have a huge repertoire, which means they could probably play longer than the Grateful Dead.

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But the songs won’t last longer than your teen-age years, though they do have some melodic hooks. In short, the band thrashes, but these guys are kinder, gentler thrashers. They even have a hard-core collection of fanatics who follow them around and tape the live shows.

“We have these guys at our gigs, these Taper Biffs, that are so into it, they even have tapes of us before we were the Meat Puppets,” Kirkwood said.

“We’ve got 70-some-odd songs, and sometimes we really play a long time. How long usually depends on how few fans are left. Sometimes we’d play until the sun came up or for eight or nine people who didn’t want us ever to stop.

And they’re a band with a mission and a philosophy: “A Meat Puppet,” Kirkwood said, “is simply what we think of ourselves. It’s an extension of our beliefs, our assumptions, our myths and our attitude on humanity in general.

“And most people can’t get away with doing something as silly as this.”

* WHERE AND WHEN

Meat Puppets, Rogue Cheddar, The Anaconda Theatre, 935 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, 685-3112, Saturday night, 8 p.m., all for $12.


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