A review of the seminal 1993 album from the legendary band at the forefront of the Seattle Grunge scene
At this point Nirvana really need no introduction, shooting to super stardom with their sophomore release “Nevermind” with one of the most popular songs of that decade “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The trio consisting of Kurt Cobain who tragically took his own life not too long after In Utero’s release, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl (and Pat Smear for a short time). The band followed up “Nevermind” with their magnum opus. In Utero is a Grunge masterpiece and really there isn’t much else to add on to that. But there’s still and always will be a need to discuss what made this album so special back when it was release and why its still so special now. Disclaimer: This is one of my favourite albums of all time, I have a tattoo and everything.
It has to be said that this albums production is a lot more gritty and raw than “Nevermind”, it gives a more authentic grungey feel. Whilst “Nevermind” was a brilliant album in its own right, the production value was a bit crisper and tighter on some of the cuts taking away some of the authentic feeling. In Utero opens with the rip roaring “Serve the Servants” with loud crashing guitars and Grohl’s now iconic drum style. The raw production value and almost erratic style of play gives away exactly what type of album this is going to be.
Following up with “Scentless Apprentice”, one of my personal favourites from the album. Truly a loud and brash masterpiece, again with wave after wave of crashing, almost thunderous guitars and heavy riffs with Kurt practically screaming the lyrics. The albums pace slows down slightly next with “Heart Shaped Box”, one of the bands most popular songs now, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great track. The band historically struggled with the recording of this track with Novoselic saying the original mixes guitar solo “sounded like an abortion hitting the floor”. The track was remixed by producer Scott Litt and reworked slightly by Cobain giving the masterpiece we have today.
The track “Rape Me”, despite what the title may suggest is not graphic and was originally written as an anti-rape song. The band wrote the song about sexism and Kurt was trying to raise awareness about sexism by being as blunt about it, as fucking possible. It’s another great track with brilliant abrasive guitar playing mixed with Kurt’s iconic, gritty vocals. I could go track by track saying why every song on this album is good, they just fucking are. Okay? Truly, to reiterate what I said earlier its the albums gritty, natural feeling production that makes these songs work so well here. “Frances Farmer” is a song that builds in the verses to reach this chorus with deafening guitars and a brilliant solo.
The albums closer “All Apologies” a song dedicated to his wife Courtney and daughter Frances, whilst the lyrics not being explicitly related to them. It’s the perfect closer for the album, a slowed down grunge ballad that’s a surprisingly happy song considering the other subject matter on the album. The track sounds even better on their acoustic sessions album MTV Unplugged. Without retreading old ground discussing all the other tracks I’ll just briefly mention the other stand out tracks for me, these being “Dumb”, “Pennyroyal Tea” and “Tourettes”. It’s truly a gem of an album and to be quite frank if you haven’t experienced it yet, what are you doing? Although obviously it won’t quite be everyones cup of tea. Cheers.