A reactionary statement to the phenomenal commercial success of Nevermind, In Utero remains Nirvana’s most noisy, caustic, uncompromised, and aggressive album. It’s also the band’s best, a brilliant combination of contagious hooks, feedback-drenched squalls, bruised beauty, and biting lyrical wit intended to blindside causal listeners with raw emotion, difficult listening, and painful honesty. Rife with medical imagery and references to disease, sickness, decay, and dismay, In Utero is the distraught sound of personal catharsis and unyielding trauma. More revealingly, the record doubles as a haunting foreshadowing of singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide that took place just months after its release.
Unhappy with the high-gloss production and pop-based arrangements on Nevermind, Nirvana set out to make a harsher album that would literally alienate millions. While the trio succeeded in its goal of getting intimate with blistering dissonance and acerbic tones, In Utero resonated with the public, debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts and ultimately selling more than four million copies. Echoing John Lennon, Cobain’s piercing songwriting spoke to the disaffected masses that shared his anguish and set new standards for ironic depth that still stand. For every unsettling screed (“Serve the Servants,” “Milk It,” “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter,” “Tourettes”) there are introspective moments of folk-inspired elegance (“All Apologies,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Dumb”) that hint at the direction in which Nirvana was headed.
1. Serve the Servants
2. Scentless Apprentice
3. Heart Shaped Box
4. Rape Me
5. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
7. Very Ape
8. Milk It
9. Pennyroyal Tea
10. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
12. All Apologies