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I can't believe I got here before Webster 1913 ... someone call him/her/it in here!

in utero (adj or adv) Latin

in the uterus, before birth

PS: There is a theory I faintly recall that proposes that the stages of a fetal life up until and including birth could function as a metaphor for the historical process. Does anyone know anything about this?

PS2: maybe this should have been created as a place?

In Utero was the last Nirvana album released while Kurt Cobain was still alive. Recorded over three weeks with the help of Steve Albini*, this album is much more heart attack-inducing than Nevermind in its mixing and production. Without getting into Kurt Cobain's depression and feelings of suicide, it's very clear throughout the album that Nirvana was trying very hard to cement the "grunge" feel and sound. The bass on the drums, throughout the whole recording, is very strong, the guitar accented towards lousiness (it's much easier to hear the mistakes in the guitar playing. Precision, Kurt Cobain used to say, is unimportant). The bass, again, is very hard to find, more a result of the bassline's similarity to the chords of the guitar, than lack of proper production. The drums pick up where the bass is lacking, anyway. Even though the album was only recorded over a period of three weeks, it is well produced, even if Scott Litt did come in to re-record the vocals.

By this time (1993), the people are used to Nirvana and the screaming, the guitar destruction, the heroin addiction rumours. It seems that while Cobain's lyrics more clearly state his feelings about his life and emotions, it is easy to notice that there is much more of an attempt to actually write lyrics, words that make sense. On Nevermind, and even the compilation album Incesticide, there are no clear lyrics. Cobain thought that lyrics were secondary to the music. Sometimes, he would write lyrics at the last minute just to get the song recorded. Then again, maybe the only reason the lyrics were any more clear is because they were included in the album's liner notes.

I will admit I don't have as much to say about the tracks on this album, in comparison to Nevermind. These were songs, with wailing, screaming and angst. That's about it.

The Tracks

1. Serve the Servants is an example of how Cobain's guitar playing has improved, to include - heaven preserve us! - picking! In most interviews, biopic articles, and other trash regarding Nirvana, this is the song which is always compared to Cobain's life. I dislike it, but here's the portion of the lyrics they always coin:

Teenaged angst has paid off well Now I'm bored and old

2. Scentless Apprentice - the only thing I really like about this song is Dave Grohl's drumming. While he's no Neil Peart, that open drum beat--which is only slightly deviated from throughout the whole song--is really catchy.

3. Heart-Shaped Box was the only single to be released off this album, and probably the album's best song.

4. Rape Me, sometimes called Waif Me on the album jacket. Critics often claim that this song is Smells Like Teen Spirit all over again, but this song has a more mature feel to it, despite the whole album's not-Butch Vig sound.

5. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle: another one that writers pull lyrics and whatnot out of, especially due to the title of the song, having to do with Frances Farmer. (These authors, people who work at magazines like Guitar World or Rolling Stone, always chime in with, 'that's also what he named his daughter--Frances.')

6. Dumb is a fairly quiet song, along the lines of Polly

7. Very Ape is a very cool song, one of my personal favourites. I find Cobain over-used his Flange in this song, but I guess it's no worse than in track 10. I love the lyric "If you ever need anything please don't / hesitate to ask someone else first". I like to sing this song when it's on, but I always smile a little during that lyrics, thus fucking up my singing.

8. Milk It - some "interesting" guitar work in this one. The randomness of this song is actually quite refreshing. The guitar is all-over-the-place picking, aside from the chorus bit, and the drums seem just a little off, like one beat too many per measure or something.

9. Pennyroyal Tea is a loud song, played quietly. It's very nice. Also, the chord used in the outro: I've never known anyone to get it right. And no, it's not an A-minor.

10. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter is very close to Breed, but it shows of Dave Grohl's drumming ability a little more.

11. tourette's, which isn't so much a song as it is wailing and bad guitar for a frightening minute-and-a-half.

12. All Apologies was a pseudo-single, in that it picked up a small amount of airplay after Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. It's been covered by Sinead O'Connor, I might add.

All in all, the production of this album, combined with the lightning-fast recording time--three weeks!!--and the problematic life of the band's front band produced a very solid album, if you're into straight-forward, in your face music. This album is definitely NOT a mimicry of Nevermind; it bears a stronger resemblance to Incesticide, despite the fact that Incesticide is B-sides and covers. The songs themselves on this album are more like Bleach, in that they have a looser, more thrown-together feel.

If you like this, you'll like Nirvana's Incesticide, Pearl Jam's Vitalogy, any record by The Melvins.

Steve Albini is a great guy. The deal with this particular album was, he asked for $100,000 to produce it. That's a huge sum of money, for production, but Albini does not ask for royalties. This is much easier. So, rumor has it Cobain paid him in cash, and off they went. Scott Litt was thrown into the picture occasionally, to re-work some basic vocal stuff and some small guitar issues after Albini had pronounced his particular job "finished".

I Hate Myself And Want To Die was the original title for Nirvana's 3rd studio album.

It was ultimately titled In Utero, derived from a poem of Courtney Love's. In Utero was a pruning process for Nirvana, an attempt to see if there would be anyone left in the aftermath; from the multitudes that swarmed the almost religious proliferation of Nevermind into the mass consciousness. Nirvana wanted to make an album that brought them back in touch with the screaming, emotional noise-rock subterranean vibe that had been such an integral part of their inception.

The production on In Utero is magnificently beautiful. It manifests a particular sound and rawness. Kurt's penchant for writing songs that can shine through layers of murk and grime are made all the more obvious with the raw, abrasive sound on this record. The drums are thick, and pound relentlessly (A persistent rumor among Nirvana fans is that Dave Grohl used the larger end of the drumsticks to pound his skins), the bass grooves and slinks, twisting and sinuous, and Cobain manages to wrench a completely tortured and naked wail from his guitar every time, and succeeds in making it a wall of noise, melody and rhythm that constantly lurks, menacing and predatory.

The words on In Utero bite, gnaw and chew. They snarl and smirk and consume the consumer; burrowing into your soul and your intellect, until they reach your center and propagate, until they suffocate you. This album is unsettling in the best possible way. It explores the vacuum that is modern existence and attempts to nullify the void through intensity and sheer bravado. Each song is a sharp statement of intent, defiantly reaching into oblivion and tipping itself over.

- All themes that somehow Nirvana managed to rock and groove into In Utero. William S. Burroughs; when he read the lyrics for In Utero; proclaimed that Kurt "was dead already" when he wrote them. Kurt said that In Utero was "very impersonal" and a rare television commercial for the album showed the band giving birth in a classroom, while a drill-sergeant/headmistress-type berates them and implores them to "breathe, you sons of bitches."

For all its chaos and cacophony and sprawling noise; sludge-like and lazy; In Utero is a neatly-drawn, tightly-wound work of musical artistry that is more than the sum of its parts. Conceived and born of a band that had reached its logical sum and bordered, inevitably, on the deadened, numbed out culturally-jet-lagged scattering of the eternal rock and roll cliche; it is rock for the ages; a fiercely burning fire within the heart of rock music.


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