Released September 1993
Original Recordings Group
Following the commercial success of Nevermind, In Utero is Nirvana’s response to the different world that such success threw them in to, with the associated crises and conflicts that arose. As a counterpoint to Nevermind’s slick polish and practised sounds, In Utero was recorded in two weeks by Pixies producer, Steve Albini. The album benefits from the rawer, immediate and more natural sound this different approach allowed. On ‘Milk It’, we hear what I think may be a chuckle from Kurt Cobain as he screams, and there are a few fluffed drums and arsing about guitar sounds throughout. The band’s charm comes through, despite the album’s obviously dark and melancholy tones.
The album stands on the brink of mainstream rock, wails, screams, shouts and heavy guitars with their distinctive grunge sound place it on the precipice of popular acceptability, not quite falling in to the heavier stoner rock around at the time, saved by melodious hooks. Despite the noise factor, the album feels intimate like the radio at night.
When the tempo slows, for example with the emotionally complex ‘Dumb’ and its resonant strings, it provides temperance to the louder, faster counterpoints of rollercoaster tracks, such as ‘Very Ape’, which features a wicked groove in the chorus, as close to boogie friendly as the album gets, reminding us, as can be forgotten, that Nirvana wrote some great tunes.
As a perfect swansong, In Utero builds on the fresh and rough sounds explored in Nirvana’s first album, Bleach. As the follow up to Nevermind, In Utero provides a bitter, beautiful repost to the media whirlwind that followed their most popular album. It’s almost worth having Nevermind around to inspire such a response.
You can read Steve Albini’s letter to Nirvana before recording In Utero here. It’s ace.