OK, bear with me here. If Kurt Cobain were still alive today, imagine the directions he might have gone in. I would see that as particularly astounding. Sure, Nirvana’s music can easily be labeled as poppy melodies blended with hard rock, grunge, and some moments of metal, but Kurt Cobain could have taken this band through even better collaborations of musical influences. That doesn’t really seem to be possible, as we’ve known Cobain and his band to make that blend of musical styles they were known for. The casual listener of Nirvana will remember Nevermind the most out of the three studio albums released by this band, and that’s most likely because of the radio singles spawned from it. Those that aren’t hardcore fans will not likely reminisce about Bleach or In Utero. These were definitely not as radio-friendly for everybody else, so naturally a non-hardcore Nirvana fan will tell you, “Um, yeah that one ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ song is pretty good”.
It’s not really that reassuring to know this, considering that Bleach and In Utero were both brilliant releases, that unfortunately were ignored pretty much completely. Two saddening conclusions come to mind when thinking about this. Firstly, Bleach was the album that was Nirvana at its premature stage. The tracks contained more screamed vocals that just weren't radio-accessible enough for the mainstream. The ballad, “About a Girl” was really the only song that received play at all, if any.
Much to Cobain's chagrin, the media slapped the face of mainstream upon Nevermind, the band's second LP. It pleased listeners all around the globe with the singles “Smells like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium”, and “In Bloom”. People claimed that this was one of the greatest (or the greatest?) punk albums of all time, and that it was Nirvana’s best album. And in some ways, it is. However, this is where In Utero comes into the picture. This album is like the perfect blending of Bleach and Nevermind, a masterpiece fusion of the two, if you will. That statement seems to be a bit fan-boyish, and a little over the top, but listen to me for just a second. The opening track, “Serve the Servants” is a another typical grunge song by Nirvana, with lyrics referencing the media of Kurt’s wife, as a washed-up drug addict. The guitar solo is something that surprised me as well. “Scentless Apprentice” is rather threatening, with Cobain capturing the story of Perfume by Patrick Suskind in a yelping-scream that gets high-pitched with what sounds like lust to me. “Heart-Shaped Box” is romantically confused pop-ballad that settles down the dust that rose from the previous song before.
The album goes on like this, being extremely catchy (a la’ melodic and balladry pop content), and tremendously heavy at the same time. Cobain’s lyrics are even more relevant than ever in this last album released by him. Perhaps it pertains to his suicide. It seems to reflect on his grey and dim lyrical themes that heighten an emotional resonance with the songs involved in this album. It’s not a literal suicide note from Cobain, but it sure as hell seems like one, as Cobain consciously attempts shedding his audience. In doing so, he fails and succeeds at the same time. Its addicting listening qualities make a timeless classic album for music fans in general, and it alienates and mocks them. I guess it’s a sort of a win-win-win situation here. Cobain’s resignation letter of an album doesn’t seem like one. It’s more like a helping of something that he would’ve improved on more in the future, if there had been one for him. As Cobain sings, “You can’t fire me because I quit”, you realize the pent-up nervous energy he’s released into In Utero. If that’s nervous energy, than I can’t even muse about what would have been after this.