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Old 06-01-2020, 08:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Nirvana-In Utero

In Utero is, of course, the album that followed Nevermind and this basic fact looms in the background throughout. Even the front cover tries to make this clear: both the title and the artwork make faint allusions to childbirth (in utero is latin for "in the womb" and the angel, though not pregnant, has her feminine qualities emphasized and put on full, grotesque display). All of which seems to allude to the swimming, stupefied baby that graced the cover of the previous album.

All of this is really no surprise, as Nirvana was as much of a shocking success story as anyone had ever seen and the glaring contradiction of their success was probably most viscerally observed by the band themselves. They saw themselves as a punk band at a time when punk was still synonymous with dropout delinquent half-wit. These concerns are spoken by Cobain throughout In Utero. Dumb, one of the singles from the album that still gets heavy rotation on rock and alternative stations, is a bittersweet ode to Cobain's personal struggle with the social aspects of fame:

"I'm not like them but I can pretend; the sun is gone but I have a light...I think I'm dumb or maybe just happy"


Stylistically, In Utero is really a lot like Nevermind too: the songs are as lyrically cryptic, they have similar loud-quiet dynamics, they make an obsessive attempt to crystallize their pop-core sound, etc. The most striking difference is the presence of Steve Albini (of Big Black) as sound engineer. Albini, a veteran of the 80s American Underground, brought the band to a sound and approach that was closer to their punk rock ideals: much more abrasive and intense and showing no signs of riding off the success of Nevermind. Cobain's guitar playing pays dues to Black Flag's Greg Ginn as he spurts out shards of noise as counterpoint to the shouted, blurted and otherwise groaned lyrics. Rape Me contains a parody version of the Smells Like Teen Spirit guitar riff accompanied by the refrain "rape me" a number of times. Serve the Servants starts off the album with some reflections on his band's newfound fame:

"Teenage angst has paid off well, Now I'm bored and old
Self-appointed judges judge More than they have sold
If she floats then she is not A witch like we thought
A down payment on another One at Salem's lot"

Always a ray of sunshine.


Track Pick: Dumb is very pretty with an accompanying cello; Heart-Shaped Box is probably the most memorable; Radio Friendly Unit Shifter is a personal favorite with its unkempt bitterness and quasi throw-away vibes.
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Old 07-04-2020, 07:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You got a rating for this album (out of 10, or 100)? Might help in conveying to us how much you like it. Also, no mention of 'Frances Farmer...'? That was always my favorite track on the album - well, that and 'Tourettes' of course.
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