Meet the Puppets
by Jeremy Ohmes
Back in 1993, I was sitting in my living room thoroughly absorbed in an Unplugged concert by my favorite band at the time, Nirvana. Kurt Cobain looked as bedraggled and scraggly as ever, and the band breezed through their repertoire with detached acoustic ease. Nine songs into the set, Cobain put down his guitar and two curly-mopped, Weird Al-looking dudes shambled out and sidled up next to the singer. They played three songs I had never heard before, Cobain warbling the words, and then they exited as nonchalantly as they had entered. I liked the songs — they were simple and catchy, slightly country-fied and a little bit dark. Cobain mumbled their name, and I went to my local record store the next day in search of The Meat Muppets. Wade, the pony-tailed record-store clerk from California, muddled up his face: “Huh? D’you mean the Meat Puppets?”
I shrugged and said, “They were on MTV last night with Nirvana.”
“Really? Man, it’s about time. They’ve been rad forever.” Cool, I thought. Both Kurt Cobain and Wade like them.
He ushered me to the rock section and pulled out six CDs. I had no idea they had that many albums, but now it was obvious that they were rad forever. “Which one has that ‘Where do bad folks go when they die’ song?” I asked. Without any hesitation, Wade, the consummate record-store clerk, handed me an album with a cover that looked like something out of kindergarten watercolor class and a title that read Meat Puppets II. I went home and put it on, and every song sounded like one fucked-up, country-folk-punk nursery rhyme after another. The vocals were completely off-key, like dying cat off-key, and the melodies were just as strange. I loved it.
A lot of kids had a similar experience and got into the Meat Puppets because of that MTV Unplugged appearance. But just as many kids would say to me, “Hey, you gotta check out this awesome Nirvana song,” and they’d play me “Lake of Fire.” I’d shake my head and show them the way. “No, man. That’s the Meat Puppets. They’ve been rad forever.”
The Meat Puppets, The Shaky Hands 8:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 20. WOW Hall • $12 adv., $15 door