Album Review: Nirvana – “In Utero”

After Nirvana exploded with Nevermind, there was a lot of curiosity as to how the band would follow up that album. At one point, rumors swirled months before In Utero’s release that the band had recorded an “unreleasable” album. However, in the fall of 1993, just a few short months before Kurt Cobain took his own life, Nirvana released its third and final album.

As soon as In Utero starts, you know that it is not simply going to be a rehash of Nevermind; the sound of the opening song, “Serve the Servants,” has a harder and almost darker sound than anything that would have been included on the previous album. In a lot of ways, the opening lines of “Serve the Servants” can be seen to reference the breakout success of Nevermind: “Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I’m bored and old.”

This is followed by “Scentless Apprentice,” which is even harder in sound than “Serve the Servants”; Kurt is also growling more on this song than he is singing. This is then followed by “Heart-Shaped Box,” the lead-off single for In Utero. The lyrics use some rather interesting imagery, but it fits with the sound of the song. “Heart-Shaped Box” is one of my favorite songs on In Utero.

Next is “Rape Me,” which is one of the shorter songs on the album. It’s also the song that sounds the closest to the Nevermind album. It’s a song that was first hinted at during the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, when the band played a short bit from it before switching to the song they were scheduled to perform. This is followed by “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” which is one of the more “mid-tempo” songs on the album; it also features some distortion on the guitar.

Next on In Utero is the song, “Dumb,” which is one of the slower songs on the album. It also features a cello, which isn’t exactly an instrument one would associate with Nirvana’s style of music. This is followed by “Very Ape,” which returns to a more upbeat sound. Sonically, it almost sounds like something that Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer, could have recorded with his band Foo Fighters, a couple of years later.

“Milk It” has a very heavy bassline, and Kurt mumbles and growls his way through the lyrics. To me, this is probably one the weaker songs on In Utero. Next is “Pennyroyal Tea.” While it’s not necessarily a slower song or an acoustic song, it still has more of a laid back sound when compared to many of the other songs that appear earlier on the album.

This is followed by “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.” When the song opens, it really doesn’t sound very radio friendly. However, once you make it past the opening, it does sound a little more “pop” than most of the songs on the album; however, the lyrics are a little on the nonsensical side. It’s ironic that this song was never released as a single from the album.

Next is “tourette’s,” which is another “harder” track on the album, where Kurt growls his way through the vocals. I have no idea what he’s saying, since none of the lyrics are printed in the liner notes. However, I really do like the sound of this song, even if I can’t understand what Kurt’s saying. This is also the shortest song on the album. In Utero closes with “All Apologies,” which was the second single from the album. It’s one of the slowest songs on the album and features a cello. However, this is also a favorite song of mine from the album.

When listening to In Utero, it sounds rather obvious that Nirvana was trying their hardest to create an album that would not be as successful as Nevermind had been. While there are a couple of weak spots on In Utero, overall I feel that this was a strong follow-up to Nevermind. Since Kurt’s death, I have wondered how Nirvana would have followed up In Utero; while this is a good album, I don’t think the band had quite reached its creative peak yet.


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