Nirvana
In Utero


5.0
classic

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
April 15th, 2009 | 48 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A stunning final album from Nirvana, full of power, emotion and beauty.

When bands break through into the mainstream, they are often left with a huge dilemma when plotting their next moves. There are two main options that bands tend to go for. The first of these is to expand on the sound captured on their last offering, going for huge mainstream success while adding to their ever increasing fan bases. The other common option is to return to their roots, often upsetting the more mainstream fans but pleasing more loyal followers. This was a problem faced by a number of bands in the early nineties, such as Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Soundgarden and probably most notably, Nirvana.

The Seattle trio had exploded onto the scene in 1991 with the surprise success of their second album, Nevermind, which benefited from the publicity and productive sheen that come from being on a major label. It did help that Nevermind was also a brilliant album, which to this day is still regarded as one of the all time greats. Of all of the grunge and alt rock bands wondering what to do with their new found success, Nirvana had arguably the toughest task. But while those bands mentioned earlier went for the first option, Nirvana took up the second, employing legendary underground punk producer Steve Albini, and writing songs with a greater resemblance to their earlier works.

The influence Albini has on this album is huge, as his production plays a huge part in the albums sound. Nevermind’s sound was polished, sharp and clean, with the album ultimately benefiting from this approach. In Utero’s could barely be more different, with a rougher, rawer and noisier edge, far less comfortable on the ears. But while Albini’s approach would most likely have made Nevermind a disaster, it works perfectly on In Utero, providing an atmosphere that was almost completely absent from its predecessor. His production gives the album a dark, unsettling feel, something that only received more attention after singer Kurt Cobain’s unfortunate suicide, only months after the albums release.

The other catalysts behind the In Utero’s terrific atmosphere are of course the band members and the songs they perform. The most obvious of these is Kurt Cobain himself, and it’s his presence that provides the biggest contribution to the album’s sound. His vocals are harsh on the ears, with his distinctive tortured howls more abundant than ever before. It’s these screams that provide the main source of emotion, which there is certainly a lot of, as you would expect from an album made by a man right on the edge.

The period in which In Utero was written was also, arguably the time when Cobain’s songwriting skills reached their peak. The fact that he is considered by many the best songwriter of his generation and that many of his greatest moments are on this album speaks for itself. The albums two finest songs almost totally contrast each other, showing the diversity of Cobain’s talents. Scentless Apprentice is a song that represents almost all of In Utero’s qualities. It’s aggressive, raw and emotional to the point where it could easily be described as depressing. As well as all that, the song features fantastic performances from all band members. Cobain’s loose guitar and Krist Novoselic’s bass complement each other beautifully, especially on the fantastic main riff, which is easily the heaviest the band ever wrote. Add the typically powerful drumming from Dave Grohl, and the song becomes a melting pot of noise, emotion and power, providing the album an early highlight. All Apologies meanwhile is a far softer moment, arguably the most beautiful song Cobain ever wrote. His voice in particular mixes with the brilliant melody to wonderful results, making this song a stunning way to end the album.

Even with these songs however, the music on In Utero is certainly not flawless. The songs, while all excellent when played individually generally aren’t as good as those on Nevermind. There are no obvious single choices, mainly due to the uncommercial production and songwriting style, so it’s really no surprise that none of the promo’s released from this album rivaled Smells Like Teen Spirit in terms of mainstream success. There are even some songs such as Very Ape and Tourette’s that could be considered filler, despite still being thoroughly enjoyable.

The main reason why none of these potential flaws bring the album down is the fantastic atmosphere previously mentioned. The album works almost perfectly as a whole, meaning that even the lesser songs fit well, and contribute to the albums continuous flow. Mellow moments such as Dumb also blend well with the heavier ones, sometimes providing relief from the weight of the material around them. Because of this, In Utero is not only a successful successor to Nevermind, but easily equals, if not surpasses it in quality.

Would In Utero be a classic had Cobain not killed himself? Questions like these are fired at all so called “classic” albums made under these sorts of circumstances, and are perfectly relevant here. The answer? Maybe, maybe not, opinions on the matter will always vary. Musically, the album is not perfect, and as mentioned earlier the songs aren’t all flawless. But the weight of the emotion on this album makes it simply impossible to ignore. With hindsight, we can now understand and appreciate this emotion in a way that would not have been possible at the time. Even if Cobain hadn’t committed suicide, the album is a very strong and powerful collection of songs, capable of bringing joy, amazement and in some cases uneasiness to the listener. It is true that some albums made by deceased musicians have become overrated because of the actions of their makers. In Utero, however, is not one of these, and as a result is rightly considered one of the greatest albums of all time by music critics and fans alike.

Reccomended Tracks
Scentless Apprentice
All Apologies
Serve The Servants
Heart-Shaped Box
Rape Me



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user ratings (3868)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 15th 2009


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I know this review wasn't really necessary, but I haven't done a 5 review yet, and I thought this would be a good place to start. Hope it's good

This Message Edited On 04.15.09

gaslightanthem
April 15th 2009


5209 Comments


i find nirvana boring as hell but good review

Phantom
April 15th 2009


8930 Comments


i find you boring as hell but good pubes

gaslightanthem
April 15th 2009


5209 Comments


good pubes on ma face

Willie
Moderator
April 15th 2009


16019 Comments


Excellent review. The only album that I listen to by Nirvana is Bleach.

Digging: Skrew - Universal Immolation

MassiveAttack
April 15th 2009


2688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

used to be my fav album few years ago.

Fugue
April 15th 2009


7353 Comments


No way, your intro is very like one I wrote the other day for the new Boy Kill Boy album, weird.
Although I have it I never really got into this album, but you seem to hype it up so I might give it a listen in the next few days. Review is good pos'd.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 15th 2009


7343 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sorry bout the intro, just post it no one will care/notice. The first time I heard this I thought it was really average, but then I started really loving some of the individual songs and it's just continued to grow on me.

Fugue
April 15th 2009


7353 Comments


Haha its ok, its not like you meant it anyway. Besides depending on your writing style you may well have written it before I wrote mine lol.

I'll definately listen to this again, to be honest I don't think I've ever given it much of a fair chance.

handoman
April 15th 2009


2386 Comments


yeah i never liked these guys

Merkaba33
April 15th 2009


702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album was ok. Luckily Heart Shaped Box owns.

shindip
April 15th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review. Probably my fave Nirvana album

MassiveAttack
April 15th 2009


2688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Radio Friendly Unit Shifter > all

Iamthe Nightstars
April 15th 2009


2260 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's good song, but the lyrics are meaningless in it...but so are a lot of other Nirvana lyrics...

rasputin
April 15th 2009


14546 Comments


great album, wouldn't go as far as saying it's a classic but it's real good for sure

AtavanHalen
April 15th 2009


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album slays

timbo8
April 16th 2009


618 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I haven't listened to this in a long while, but I still consider it a classic for me. "All Apologies" is my favorite Nirvana song. The band, and especially this album, really made me love music.

Douchebag
April 16th 2009


3624 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album may be amazing. But I always feel so depressed after this, it's horrible. And for that I will always prefer Nevermind.

rasputin
April 16th 2009


14546 Comments


But I always feel so depressed after this, it's horrible.

That's sort of the point, it's not meant to be a happy album.

gaslightanthem
April 16th 2009


5209 Comments


it's too gruff rasputin



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