Thursday, 4 February 2010

Love Offering

Life was never really the same for me after I discovered the Meat Puppets via their now-legendary second album, later championed by Kurt Cobain in the "Nirvana Unplugged" session. There was something about the sound of that record that I found irresistible - probably the fact that it was rough and sounded like it could spin out of control at any moment, but simultaneously it contained some fascinating songs and stunning guitar work. It's one of those records that still sounds fresh when I listen to it today.

After my first exposure, I then went back to their first album, which made me even more intrigued by them. This album couldn't have been more different from its successor. The lyrics were entirely unintelligible, the recording live and low-fi, the playing and singing pretty much completely unhinged throughout. Did they intend to sound this ragged? Was it the best they could achieve under the circumstances? Did they even care?

I saw them twice at a later stage in their career (I think after the Mirage and Huevos albums), both times at The Antenna Club. They were older and tighter, but still highly erratic, launching into covers that they didn't really know how to play, and Curt Kirkwood was prone to making the odd mocking comment about his brother Cris, and refusing to play large sections of the set list which Derrick Bostrom (the only member who seemed interested in playing a structured show) called out. I loved every minute of it. It was liberating to see a band, not "taking it to the edge," but willingly throwing themselves off into the abyss, seemingly unafraid of looking or sounding stupid, but capable of immense beauty at times.

Today I stumbled across this two-part ABC profile of the band (Part 1 and Part 2), which is great, if you like them. Also of interest is this amazing archive of live bootlegs. My personal favorite is this 1983 version of "Plateau," which, though recorded in Phoenix, reminds me very much of an average night at The Antenna Club of the time - a grumpy club-owner, some audience hostility, some political incorrectness, and a heckler who (it sounds like) douses Curt Kirkwood with a drink during the song. He recovers admirably, and the band finishes triumphant. Curt: "Meat Puppets rule the universe." Cris: "We all rule the universe."

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