Sunday, 16 October 2011

CD Review: In Utero, by Nirvana (1993)

An album from the tortured mind of a man filled with self-hate, his brains fried on drugs, desperate to kill himself. Kurt Cobain wanted to call this album I Hate Myself And I Want To Die, both of which were very true. In Utero was released in September 1993, and Cobain killed himself with a gunshot bullet to the head in April 1994.

The much anticipated follow-up to Nevermind was a troubled production, Cobain not able to handle his global status as a generational icon, the Geffen label eager to cash-in on the success of the most influential band in the world, and producer Steve Albini caught somewhere between a band keen to produce non-commercial music and the world's breathless anticipation. The result is a disgusted cry for help, not necessarily popular music, but embraced nonetheless by the pop scene of the day precisely because self-hate was in vogue.

Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I'm old and bored, Cobain sings on Serve The Servants. On Milk It he is more blunt: Look on the bright side is suicide. And on All Apologies, the closing track: Everything is my fault / I'll take all the blame. A troubled life was coming to an end with plenty of announcements, emphasized by Cobain's erratic behaviour and exuberant drug use.

As for the music, In Utero is a generally weary exercise in a single tone, the less experimental tracks settling for a soporific pace, the band adding little to Cobain's lyrics. Rape Me stands out for finding the most sensitive emotional core, while Tourette's is a reminder that this is a band that could redefine going nuts with metal, while allowing Dave Grohl to have some of his finest moments as a drummer.

On the other end of the scale tracks like Scentless Apprentice and Milk It seem to specifically be assembled as anti-music, Cobain challenging his fans to love him despite his almost intentional contempt. Milk It could have been produced by a group of tentative amateurs jamming together for the first time.

In Utero is ultimately and more than anything a deeply sad experience, Cobain's invitation to the world to attend his own impending funeral.


Kurt Cobain - Guitar, Vocals
Krist Novoselic - Bass
Dave Grohl - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Serve The Servants - 8
2. Scentless Apprentice - 6
3. Heart-Shaped Box - 8
4. Rape Me - 9
5. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle - 7
6. Dumb - 8
7. Very Ape - 8
8. Milk It - 5
9. Pennyroyal Tea - 7
10. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter - 7
11. Tourette's  - 9
12. All Apologies - 7

Average: 7.42

Recorded by Steve Albini.
Mastered by Bob Ludwig.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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