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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Plateau"

Meat Puppets - "Plateau" (1984)

Nirvana played six covers November 18 1993, half of them were Meat Puppets songs.



I knew this was a cover, I knew that I had only heard of the Meat Puppets because Kurt Cobain liked them and wanted to introduce them to the rest of the world. What I didn't know was that the song was almost ten years old when Nirvana recorded their really faithful cover during the MTV Unplugged in New York session.

So when Kurt sang this song and it sounded like it wasn't written for his range, I just assumed he loved the song so much that he was willing to sound a little like a kid trying to fit into his dad's suit; reaching for, but not quite grasping the heart of it. But it turns out that the original sounds the same way. Tortured simple vocals, straining at the highs and fading into the lows that can't be reached even by the man who wrote it: Kurt Kirkwood. Kurt on guitar, with his brother Chris on bass and their friend Derrick Bostrom on drums were out of time and place their entire career. It was the 80s and they were on punk label SST with renegade rebels Black Flag, but they, like the label eventually, were into something a little different. Sometimes classified as cowpunk,  what they sang was folk and country influenced rock, filtered through the punk ethos of short, simple, and D.I.Y. The brothers were also heavily into drugs, and despite the newly rediscovered fame that performing with Nirvana got them, the band never managed to become big because Chris in particular was always looking for the next high.

You can hear the drugs in the obscure lyrics, but it's the unexpected feedback and distortion filled outro that still sits in my brain twenty minutes after I heard it for the first time.

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