We all know Nirvana’s great songs: “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Rape Me,” “Come As You Are,” “Heart Shaped Box,” etc. Some people argue that the band’s entire collection warrants a Best Of for the ages. Personally, my favorite song (and the only one I’m not absolutely sick of) is their cover of Meat Puppets’ “Lake of Fire.”
Blending punk with psychedelic and country rock, the Meat Puppets use a slow, country acoustic guitar with a little twang in their version of “Lake of Fire.” Though the subject matter is quite dark (“Where do bad folks go when they die?/They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly/They go to the lake of fire and fry/We don’t see ’em again till the 4th of July”), the beat and song itself is somewhat upbeat. There’s a bluesy guitar solo throughout that brings the tone down a notch, but the rock aspect picks the song up somehow.
In Nirvana’s version of “Lake of Fire,” the band keeps the country a prominent aspect despite the fact that they were a known pioneer of the grunge genre. They accomplish this by keeping the soulful and country spirit of the guitars but implement a tad more distortion to the formula. Not to mention grunge god Kurt Cobain’s scratchy, not-able-to-hit-the-high-notes voice gives the song more of a punk essence.
Cobain just can not hit those notes, which would normally be a bad thing. For some reason, though, that adds to the greatness of this song. It’s one of the reasons he was (and still is) looked up to as a great influence on the rock community. The roughness and grungy-ness of Nirvana’s version is the only Nirvana song that I can tolerate (don’t get the band’s “played-outness” confused with disrespect for the band) and that “realness” and carelessness for perfection is the reason why.