Last month, I met up with Matthew Smith-Lahrman for dinner before a Meat Puppets gig. He was in town to present us with his just-released book, “The Meat Puppets and the Lyrics of Curt Kirkwood, from Meat Puppets II to No Joke.” But even as I opened my copy for the first time, Matt was already putting the twelve-year project behind him. At 85 dollars a copy, his book targets university libraries more than bookstores. No wonder Matt resisted my suggestion that he slog all over Phoenix pitching it to local merchants. He was much more eager to start his next subject, which, thanks to a combination of street noise and his academese jargon, I didn't quite catch.
Over the years, I did many lengthy interviews with Matt. I also fact checked, kibitzed, and put him through his paces when he probed too close to the odd sore spot. Now, as he stood with my wife and I, killing time before the evening's gig, I asked what surprised him most after talking with us. Without hesitation, he remarked at what serious careerists we were. Despite our well-publicized reputation for irreverence, we treated our music like a real job. This set me off on my well-worn rant on how rock and roll is the story of survival. How do you stay true to yourself when you're living on the frontier of self-invention? How do you keep doing your work while impaled on the horns of the order you're compelled to impose on the world? You get the picture.
This time, I guess, the artist and the academic aren't so different. Matt took a hard look at his manuscript and wound up cutting the band history sections down to the bone and focusing on the lyrics. I have my doubts about the relevance of any analysis of Curt's capricious word-play, but I'm glad Matt made sure he got the book he wanted. He had to kill a lot of his darlings to get there. But if you want the rest of the story, you can visit Matt's blog, Perspectives, to check out all his interviews with the band. Get the book from Amazon if you want a slight break on the price. And if you want to sample it first, Google Books offers a healthy dose.
UPDATE: See the comments section for a special 35% discount from the publisher.