Review Summary: Kurt Cobain's lyrics and vocals work like a double edged sword: sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
After releasing Nevermind in 1991, Nirvana is literally on top of the world. Nirvana ushered in the new era of grunge and shocked the world, especially with their most well known hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Soon, other bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice In Chains would tip their hat into the grunge scene. However, in my opinion, Nirvana's second album made them seem doomed to me. Nevermind was quite like a pop-punk album, and Kurt Cobain's lyrics made little to no sense to me. But in their defense, grunge WAS somewhat punk in its early years, such case can be said for Alice In Chains' Dirt. The years to follow though, grunge sounded nothing like punk, instead sounding more like hard rock.
Fast forward to 1994, to Nirvana's third and final studio album, In Utero. In Utero has got to be one of, if not the greatest, albums of the grunge era. In Utero is a rather large surprise to me. Now Cobain and the rest of the band have moved to a more raw sound, with a dark mood to boot. Kurt Cobain literally puts his life on display in this album, notably in opener Serve The Servants, ballad(if you will) Heart Shaped Box, closer All Apologies, and ESPECIALLY Pennyroyal Tea.
Serve The Servants starts with a chilling surprise, with Nirvana now playing darker than before with more of a in-your-face attitude. Dave Grohl is pounding away at the skins, Noveselic's bass is booming, and Cobain's guitar jumps out to catch the listener's attention, with spine chilling riffs. His monotone vocal is also heartfelt and matching for an album such as this, and Cobain's lyrical structure in In Utero shows it well. Serve The Servants is one of my favorite tracks that Nirvana has ever done. It's enjoyable to hear Cobain say "Teenage angst has paid off well, now I'm bored and old", and I also enjoy the guitar solo Cobain gives, showing off that he actually can play guitar. I actually think he can play better than he can sing, because Cobain tends to mumble, which you can't really tell what he's saying unless you have a lyric sheet or you can just tell right away. However, no such case could be said for Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies.
I can't really explain why Heart Shaped Box is a terrific song, but all I can say is that it shows off some of Cobain's strongest vocals during the chorus. All Apologies is indeed heartfelt, and depressing. Why depressing? When Nirvana quit after the suicide of Kurt Cobain, which would happen one year later after their Live In New York performance, All Apologies felt like Kurt's farewell message to me. But then we have Pennyroyal Tea to just put the finishing touches on the display of Cobain's life. In this number, Cobain actually sums up his life in just this one song. Kurt's shrill vocal works, actually working for the better here, and he gives a great solo to boot. I don't know what to say, it might be the inner fanboy speaking within me, but Pennyroyal Tea is just brilliant.
However, while In Utero has its strongest performances and backbone, it does get boring, weak, or redundant. Scentless Apprentice is nothing but noise, noise, and more noise, never escaping its main riff except for the Cobain solo. Not to mention, Cobain's vocal is annoying in it too. Rape Me recycles the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit from Nevermind, and the lyrics aren't that impressive: "Rape me. Rape me, my friend. Rape me. Do it to me again." However, despite this, Cobain does manage to sell the song with his vocal, but before he finishes a verse, he mumbles right at the last line of the verse, whichever one it may be. The lyrical structure to Frances Framer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle is poor, only displaying three lines a verse, before Cobain would keep repeating the extremely catchy line "I miss the comfort in being sad".
Dumb is a good song, but it's not as eye catching to me as Heart Shaped Box is on In Utero. A better version of this song would come during the recording of Nirvana's Unplugged appearance. However, it is interesting to hear the cello when Kurt says "Think I'm just happy". And then we have Very Ape and Milk It. Very Ape is very bad, with the intro reusing riffs found in Drain You from Nevermind, and the lyrical structure is at a low point. Milk It is just the same way lyrically, and vocally. You can barely tell what Kurt Cobain is saying, except for in the chorus, "Doll steak, test meat". Radio Friendly Unit Shifter is decent, but the technical effects just ruin the song right away. Now we have the worst song on this album left.
That's right. The only song we have left is Tourette's. This song is cacophonial, bland, dull, ear-bleed inducing, etc. I could go on and on about how bad this song is, but I'll just go ahead and explain why. At the start of the song, Kurt says "Moderate rock", followed by Nirvana going back to their Nevermind sound in this one. The only three really words are "cufk, tish, sips". We all should know what they are when you rearrange them in a certain way. This song is a minute of nothing but Kurt Cobain shouting random nonsense over and over again, and the sound is unbearable. You should definitely skip this track, with ease, unless you like the Muddy Banks of Wishkah version of Tourette's better.
With a new, raw sound after showing little promise in Nevermind, Nirvana manages to create one interesting release. Masterpieces like Heart Shaped Box and Pennyroyal Tea would be something that no anti-Nevermind person would expect to hear from these guys. However, despite having some of its strongest performances, Kurt Cobain's lyrics and vocals still ruined over half of In Utero, working like a double edged sword: sometimes for the better in songs(Pennyroyal Tea) and sometimes for the worse(Very Ape, Tourette's). Later on, KoRn would take the reins after Kurt Cobain's tragic death, and bring in the genre of nu-metal, all while reaching out to the post-grunge teens after Nirvana's end. All in all, In Utero is an album for the ages, and if you haven't gotten this, you should. In Utero does deserve a good listen or two.
1. Serve The Servants- 5/5
2. Scentless Apprentice- 2/5
3. Heart Shaped Box- 4.5/5
4. Rape Me- 3/5
5. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle- 2/5
6. Dumb- 4/5
7. Very Ape- 1.5/5
8. Milk It- 1/5
9. Pennyroyal Tea- 5/5
10. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter- 3/5
11. Tourette's- 0/5
12. All Apologies- 5/5
36 divided by 12= 3(get this part by adding the song ratings together, then divide by the total number of tracks)
Final Rating: 3 out of 5