Song of the Day: “Swimming Ground” – The Meat Puppets

Quick. Who’s the most underrated guitar player in rock music?

Well, a lot of people, actually.

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I’m not sure Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets can hold the distinction of being the most underrated, but the dude has certainly got a shot at the Top Ten. Thanks to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, the Meat Puppets enjoyed a brief bit of residual popularity after appearing on the group’s famed MTV Unplugged Special in 1993. Ultimately, however, the contributions of Curt Kirkwood are only known to those who seek them out. The group’s 1985 record Up on the Sun is chock-full of really interesting guitar work, but my favorite moment has to be the track “Swimming Ground.” Kirkwood finds a terrific riff, but he somehow voices this riff in a way that is uniquely his. It’s hard to imagine another guitarist, no matter the talent level, recreating the guitar line in “Swimming Ground.” It just belongs to this particular guitar player at this particular time. The riff is snakelike, almost playful, and it calls to mind a scene of kids jumping off cliffs, peeking around caves, and just generally behaving recklessly. I never had a “swimming ground,” but I can certainly relate to the casual stupidity of youth. Though the rhythm section of the Puppets is perfectly on point (mad props to Curt’s brother Cris on bass and Derek Bostrom on drums), it’s really the main lead that manages to invoke all this imagery. Up on the Sun is filled with this sort of expressive guitar work, and it serves as a great introduction to the wide world of the Meat Puppets. Curt Kirkwood celebrates his 58th birthday this past January 10th, and if you’re looking for an excuse to check out the best cow-punk band from Tempe, Arizona, you’ve found it.

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