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Dixie State University

DSU professor releases book on Meat Puppets’ lyrics

November 7, 2014

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Combining his love for rock ‘n’ roll with his academic training of studying human society, Dixie State University Professor of Sociology Matthew Smith-Lahrman is releasing a book this month that explores the lyrics of the band Meat Puppets.

Set to be released Nov. 16, “The Meat Puppets and the Lyrics of Curt Kirkwood from Meat Puppets II to No Joke!” analyzes the lyrics of the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll band’s founding member and songwriter. The book examines Kirkwood’s lyrics on the nine albums the band released from 1983 to 1995, when he wrote virtually every lyric for the band.

“This was a labor of love,” Smith-Lahrman said. “The book took 12 years to write. I tried to write a history of the band at one point, but the lyrical analysis was the book I wanted to write. I’m happy with the result.”

The decision to write about the lyrics of the Meat Puppets, whose sound is a unique blend of punk, country, psychedelic and hard rock, was an easy one for Smith-Lahrman. As a sociologist, he enjoys conducting research, but joining the band on tour to observe their behavior firsthand was not feasible. Analyzing the group’s lyrics proved to be the perfect project. As part of his research process, Smith-Lahrman conducted in-depth interviews with each of the three original members of Meat Puppets, asking questions about the songs and getting to know the musicians as individuals.

“When I asked Curt about his lyrics, he was really hesitant to tell me about songs,” Smith-Lahrman said. “He gets a kick out of hearing what people think the songs may be about. He likes having different interpretations. Is my analysis right? I don’t know.”

In his lyrics, Kirkwood commonly addresses the dichotomy between individual psyche and behavioral expectations, and the problems this creates, Smith-Lahrman said. Additionally, drug use, mental illness and Christianity are explored in Kirkwood’s early lyrics. As the original Meat Puppets began to dissolve, Kirkwood turned to writing about personal issues, including his frustrations with the major label industry, the death of his mother, the addictions of his brother and the demise of the band itself. Smith-Lahrman adds that Kirkwood writes about the big questions in life — such as why are humans here — and answers these inquiries with a good sense humor, admitting that he doesn’t know the answers.

The hardcover edition of “The Meat Puppets and the Lyrics of Curt Kirkwood from Meat Puppets II to No Joke!” is available for preorder at www.amazon.com for the discounted price of $65.

In addition to the lyrical analysis, Smith-Lahrman has another book on the market. Released by Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, “Introduction to Sociology” can be downloaded in digital format for e-readers, making it affordable for college students on fixed budgets. Smith-Lahrman said the sociology book he currently teaches out of costs $160 when bought new, and his digital book will sell for $37.

“Offering textbooks digitally makes people’s college educations a little less expensive in this digital age when students don’t like to carry around a lot of books anyways,” he said.

Smith-Lahrman said he will start using his book in his DSU introductory sociology class in the spring semester and the goal is to have other professors on college campuses around the nation teaching out of it as well. “Introduction to Sociology” is available at www.kendallhunt.com/smith-lahrman.