Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

September 7, 2013

Nirvana ~ In Utero

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: grunge
Label: DGC
Year: 1993
Home: Seattle, Washington (disbanded)

Members: Kurt Cobain ~ guitar/vocals
Dave Grohl ~ drums
Krist Novoselic ~ bass

Additional: Kera Schaley ~ cello

The impact of Nirvana on music will be eternal, which is a heavy statement but considering its been almost two decades since the band ended & their influence is as strong as the much older Bob Marley or the Beatles its thus a heavy statement I feel comfortable saying ... though, on the other hand will the music business be eternal? Considering how rarely we hear about the latest rock band or guitar hero on Star Trek the Beatles don't have longevity according to Gene Roddenberry & to talk about reggae touches on racism. It's almost strange to think that for such a powerful influence Nirvana only made three studio albums & their debut is more akin to a demo, while it wasn't until their second album that they became internationally famous or infamous. Coming only two years after that breakthrough second album no one would have predicted that their follow-up would also be their swan song. While nobody probably also predicted how different this album would sound compared to what came before, but then in retrospect all three albums are their own creatures with little common ground. Debut Bleach is a raw garage band not out to change music, Nevermind is a pop punk angry young man album maybe a bit more commercial pop than rough punk, while swan song In Utero just pulls everything back into a stark cold abyss that careens from tender ballads, some of Nirvana's best actually, to alienating guitar jams. In some ways this musical move might be compared to, of all bands, Metallica who moved from the commercially successful sounds of The Black Album to the cold intimidating St. Anger that was once described by a reviewer as a naked bulb too bright in an empty room. In Utero might be Nirvana's empty room with only a naked bulb, though its not quite so bright depending on where one is standing. But, one must also consider it took Metallica years to get to this naked place while Nirvana did it seemingly overnight, both naturally & a bit intentionally with a new producer in tow. This album has almost become less famous for its music & more famous for asking a lot of questions, with Kurt Cobain's death not long after its release not opening the door to any answers. Was Cobain deliberately in attack mode while creating this album jumping out against all that angered him, including his fans, or has the coldness of parts of the album been misinterpreted in light of his mysterious inner demons & suicide & the anger over-emphasized over other more important or less angry lyrical images? Can there be found in the music signs of the beginning of his mental breakdown, some like to point to closing song "All Apologies", or is this Cobain actively trying to work through his demons before they conquer him & this is actually Custer's last stand on Capitol Hill? Was Nirvana reaching into the past for a new sound or looking to the future with the eye of a musician in a mode of natural progression, or was Nevermind the fluke sound & this more akin to the real Nirvana? Considering Nevermind turned grunge into a household word is In Utero still a grunge album, but then what is grunge essentially? What music was Cobain & company listening to at the time & can it be heard as an influence here, as nothing is created in isolation. Is this a transition album in disguise from a tortured artist that never got to have its next piece put into place? So many questions with what answers out there coming from everyone but Cobain & even then his answers at the time might be more the game of an artist weaving through the music business than a heart to heart confession. This is not as musically focused or as lyrically strong & addicting as Nevermind & one wonders how it would rate if it hadn't been their last album or if it hadn't followed a groundbreaking & legacy making album. One also wonders what might have followed this musically if Nirvana had continued. Also, its gone on to be a top selling album, but how much of that has to do with the music & how much has to do with the name of Nirvana & the fact this is their final studio outing? Some critics, including the record label at the time, said his writing was not at its best & the album a difficult listen. Is this a true opinion as its certainly a difficult album or does the name Nirvana give leeway where other bands get criticized? Or, is it only in light of the commercial sounding Nevermind that its unlistenable? In Utero has some strong memorable tracks in "Serve The Servants", "Heart Shaped Box", "Dumb", "Rape Me", "Pennyroyal Tea", "All Apologies", though a few suffer on some level from either sounding undeveloped. The rest of the songs tend to sound somewhat unfocused & meandering & more akin to jams than completed ideas either musically or lyrically & it's hard to call Cobain a guitar god by any means who can dance his way through a guitar solo. The highs are great, the lows can be avoided, some have said the tracks that didn't make the cut should have & the result would be a far stronger album. In 2013 a deluxe version was released with more than seventy tracks including rare & unreleased recordings & demos plus live recordings of the final line-up of Cobain, Novoselic, Grohl plus rhythm guitarist Pat Smear. It doesn't fully answer the what if questions but its a nice attempt to create some context to an album that really needs it.

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