Metaphorically speaking, which deserves more credit; the band that sold millions of albums, or the guys that influenced that band? I’ve heard this question raised many times in the music industry, as it’s fairly common for a band to have gotten started because they heard some local band rock out as teenagers. Although the top-selling band went on to drastically top the influential band in popularity, the inspiration doesn’t generally see any credit. Today’s band, The Meat Puppets, was most definitely the influencer of a very big 90s band that I seem to talk about every week.
The Meat Puppets were formed in 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona. A few guys were tinkering with different sounds in the local music scene, but struggled to really come up with a connection. They played mostly covers of punk and hard rock stuff from bands that also originated from that area. They would go on to release six albums in the 80s, each one with a totally different sound then the one before. Everything from acid rock to country western was belted out by the band. They even sang an entire album off key on purpose, to give it a more folk sound.
By the time 1993 came around, the band was still making music—but without any sort of direction, even considering a hiatus. Some guy by the name of Kurt Cobain called, and asked lead singer Curt Kirkwood to sing with Nirvana at a special show. That show ended up being the infamous MTV Unplugged performance, resulting in one of the best-selling albums of all time. Cobain had been a big fan of the Meat Puppet’s sophomore album, and wanted to cover three songs off it. With him announcing before each song, who the Meat Puppets were and that these were covers, naturally the grunge universe had to get their hands on what influenced Nirvana.
To capitalize on some of this newfound buzz, Too High To Die came out in January of 1994. Realizing they needed a big release to help the album, the single ‘Backwater’ was added to the record, and reached #2 on the Billboard charts. One of the Nirvana-covered songs, ‘Lake of Fire’ was also added as a hidden track at the very end. Similar to the rest of their career, this album is all over the place. I guess because it came out in what is probably the most respected year in music history, they’ll call it grunge or alt rock, but it’s not really any of that.
Eccentric nature of the record aside, it’s a pretty good listen. It feels very rock, but many elements of folk rock, with a little R&B on the side. It’s one of those records where I may not remember much about it, but I know it’s a really easy listen. And sometimes that’s nice. The main track ‘Backwater’ is very good, something I’d actively put on any time of the day. It’s interesting to hear the original ‘Lake of Fire’ as well, since most of my exposure to that song would be Nirvana’s acoustic version.
I give this album respect, just because it’s the best-selling album of a band who influenced such a major act of my youth. But in all honesty, it’s good too. It’s certified gold in the U.S., so a bunch of others agree too. And if it was always $5 bucks like it is now, I’m sure it’d sell a million more.
Top 3 Tracks: