When I compiled Treble’s 20 Essential Sub Pop albums last year on the legendary indie label’s 20th anniversary, some albums were left out–Earth, L7 and Tad for instance. But if there’s one that most certainly should have been there and wasn’t, (but don’t ask me what should have been bumped–that’s opens another can of worms) it’s Red Red Meat’s Bunny Gets Paid. Chicago’s Red Red Meat is far from Sub Pop’s best selling, or even most recognized band. They didn’t launch a genre like Mudhoney, or sell half a million records like The Postal Service, or become reluctant generation definers like Nirvana, or get Zach Braff endorsement like The Shins. No, Red Red Meat’s importance is a little less tangible, but no less worthy of emphasis.
On the album’s 14th anniversary (though timeframe is probably irrelevant in this case), Sub Pop has made the effort of reissuing Red Red Meat’s third album Bunny Gets Paid in a deluxe edition, much like the label did with Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff on its 20th birthday. As is par for the course with deluxe releases, Bunny Gets Paid features deluxe packaging and a bonus disc of unreleased tracks, covers, b-sides, demos and various goodies. Yet these extras wouldn’t make much of a difference if not to highlight the original album in itself, which is a spectacular piece of work a decade and a half(ish) after its initial release.
Simply put, Bunny Gets Paid is a spectacular piece of work, a sludgy, bluesy, rocking affair from this Chicago foursome. Yet it’s also a peculiar album, loud and heavy enough to appeal to grunge fans, yet far too weird for that to really be the case. The album flows almost like a live set, with first track “Carpet of Horses” serving as a low-key introduction just before the fireworks go off. Its odd, bluesy acoustic post-rock sound reveals the sound that members Brian Deck, Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella would pursue in Califone after RRM’s dissolution. Yet “Chain Chain Chain” is where the album really kicks in to gear, firing up the distortion and surging into a hearty, rootsy rock anthem with just enough noise to not really be Americana. “Rosewood, Stax, Volts and Glitter” is even noisier, and quite chaotic at that–vocals are unintelligible, the sound of broken glass emerges numerous times. Yet the song somehow remains melodic.
Ragged ballad “Gauze” is a mesmerizing peak on Bunny Gets Paid, smoky and melancholy, with Rutili’s scratchy vocals playing an oddly stoic foil to the more emotive guitar chords. “Idiot Sun,” which appears on the second disc in its single version, is another highlight, upbeat and fuzzy with slide guitar slicing through the laid-back blues rock verses. “Oxtail” moseys along with a slower pace, but maintains a gritty rock sound heavy on overdrive. It reaches its full potential at its chorus, where melodic riffs cascade against fuzzy power chords. And closer “There’s Always Tomorrow,” a cover of the track from the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer special, ends the album with some hopeful balladry put through the Meat wringer.
Throughout each of these songs, there’s a sound of classic rock reimagined, as if Keith Richards and Captain Beefheart were closer to peers than poles. And for all its weirdness, Bunny Gets Paid is a remarkably accessible album. Beautiful even. Knowing what I know about the last 15 years of indie rock, I can recognize Sub Pop’s foresight into turning the public’s attention back to this classic album. It almost makes more sense now than it did then.