Nirvana – In Utero.

In September, 1993, Nirvana released their third and final studio album In Utero. For the band that I had seen develop, explode and implode in-front of my very eyes and ears, and I band I hold in almost singular high regard – I rarely listened to, or listen to the album.

I can recall from 1992 – very clearly – a friend telling me with near joy that Nirvana were going to call their as yet unreleased third album ‘I Hate Myself And I Want To Die’. I did think at the time that would have been a genial album title and so fitting for a band that clearly were uncomfortable with their fame. With hindsight it’s quite a tragic side note.

So, Nirvana with their oh, so credible low key debut Bleach and the accidental, welcome monster that was Nevermind found themselves in an odd place in circa 1993. Whilst Nevermind blew up to epic proportions fans that had followed the band closely must have pondered, like me, what on earth they could do next.

Heart Shaped Box preceded In Utero by a month and with its heavy MTV rotation video was exciting but it felt like the band had had their soul ripped out. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great single but it felt removed, cold and isolated. Nirvana were to an extent going through the motions. This is where, ironically In Utero comes into its own…

I have always seen the album as Nirvana fighting Geffen. Maybe I’m just getting too romantic with this notion. The band were flippant in interviews and seemed to be doing their damnedest to go deep within themselves and disappear.

The result is that In Utero is as hardcore an album as they could get away with to such an extent that Geffen toyed with the record and seriously considered not releasing it at all.

One could feel the tangible disdain from the band to such an extent that I never bought the record or even bought a ticket to see the accompanying planned tour. It felt like Nirvana wanted to be left alone and work things through themselves. Selfishly I can only wish they had worked things out – beyond the music – and can only imagine if they had made, say, another 4 studio albums how great the band could have been again.

Of course history did not play out this way and all I can point out is that roughly 4 years my senior the music world and beyond lost an incredible, real talent when Mr. Cobain turned that gun on himself in 1994.

I planned on going through the songs on In Utero when I began typing this blog entry but having typed 400 words or so feel that would not be right. It feels right to muse the mark the band left. Scratch that… It feels right to remember what a joy the band were when they were on track and seriously blowing things up circa the Sliver single. I will always remember that time and corresponding tour as a group ready to, knowingly or not, take underground alternative rock into a totally new place and leave a trail of sweating venues, ecstatic fans and turntables in bedrooms spinning their records for decades to come…

In Utero is a great album but one I do not listen to. I have heard it in its entirety less than 5 times although I do know all of the songs on it. It has ghost like qualities to me as indeed does the Unplugged album which as beautiful as that is feels like a funeral.

Hey, I’m rambling. Nirvana, great, great band…

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One thought on “Nirvana – In Utero.

  1. In Utero is a strong album made in difficult circumstances. Unplugged may get all the plaudits because of what came next, but it’s a statement of where the band was at that point in time and the turmoil it was going through both internally (Cobain was actively scouting for new drummers) and externally (media circus, very demanding label).
    For Nirvana, the problem with Nevermind lay in post-production: a glossy, ‘metal’ sound imposed by Geffen that was a long way from Bleach’s $600 low-fi honesty, and emblematic of the travails grunge bands faced once signed to a major. The band’s subsequent tussles with Geffen over the sound of the follow-up album reflected the classic and enduring struggle between musician (art) and record label (commerce), and In Utero provides a rare instance of art winning, whatever the problems with selling the album eveidenced by Nirvana’s wish to include challenging songs like Rape Me.
    In ‘Grunge is Dead’, a Seattle musician recalls talking to Cobain on a flight from Seattle down to LA in early 94. I don’t know the degree of hindsight involved in the reporting of the conversation, but Cobain reflected on the hole he was in; he knew what he needed to do to get out of it – break up Nirvana, divorce Courtney, kick his addiction and start over – but sadly doubted he had the strength to do so. It’s one of the great ‘what-ifs’…

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