“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Saint Mesa – A Song Feature
Too many covers are by artists trying to mimic the original. Sometimes it works, but not usually. Courage and creativity are required before making the leap from a commercially proven approach. Saint Mesa flashed courage and radiated creativity in the making of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The original arguably sits at the pinnacle of Nirvana’s discography. Still, the cinematic approach of Saint Mesa’s cover has the power to draw other generations of admirers to the song – music lovers who were not alive in 1991 or were not prepared to embrace the darkness of Cobain’s message. Ironically, Saint Mesa shines this generation-expanding light by increasing the darkness of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
The start of the song doesn’t telegraph what is to follow. Gently played guitar and piano accompany calming Grunge vocals of the slightly distressing Nirvana lyrics, “Load up on guns, bring your friends.” The first indication of the power and darkness occurs around 30 seconds into “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with sonic traits similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s short-stoke string instruments during the shower murder scene of “Psycho.” Later in the song, the characteristics resurface with greater force.
Each instrument makes its contribution to this cinematic approach to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The guitar injects haunting wanes, the percussion is thunderous, the keys are powerful, and the vocals are passionate. The lyrics are including in this post. Interestingly, Saint Mesa elected not to use the final lines of the Nirvana chorus, so there is no mention of "a mosquito” or “my libido.”
Saint Mesa is the performance name of Danny McCook from Mission Viejo, California. He works closely with Mike Freesh. In elaborating about the single, Danny said:
“This cover honestly happened accidentally. I was playing around with a weird chord progression on piano, and somehow the chorus of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ popped into my head, despite the chords being so far from the original. The melody plopped right and it just felt right, organic. After I put the demo together, me and my co-producer Mike [Freesh] went in on production: drums, guitars, bass vi, junos and prophets, neves and LA-2As. I'm very proud of how the final product turned out, it feels like the most Saint Mesa cover that I could have made.”