Well, with three votes, In Utero barely won. Here you go, the first ever viewer choice article (as well as the first album review) from Happy Katana.
I’m sure you all know Nirvana’s success story by now, and how they were considered one of the most important bands, if not the most important, of the Alternative Rock revolution of the early to mid ’90s. They released three studio albums; Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991), and In Utero (1993). We all know that Nirvana broke into the mainstream with Nevermind, helped out by the mega hit single, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Before Nevermind, Bleach was moderately successful and was getting some airplay on college radio stations. But although all three albums are amazing, I’m not here to talk about Nevermind or Bleach. No, I’m here to review what I feel is Nirvana’s true masterpiece.
That album, of course, is In Utero. Released in 1993, In Utero’s raw, noisy sound must have been a surprise to everyone expecting a follow up to Nevermind’s clean, well produced sound. Of course, that’s not to say that In Utero doesn’t have its fair share of polished songs, but In Utero is definitely a rawer, noiser, and overall less radio friendly album than it’s predecessor. Nirvana, especially front man Kurt Cobain, was disappointed with the slick, polished sound of Nevermind, and wanted to create a rawer album. They got the legendary engineer (he refuses to be called a producer) and musician, Steve Albini, who previously engineered albums from artists such as The Pixies, The Jesus Lizard, and The Breeders, to engineer their album. The result was a perfect fusion of the Pop songwriting and a little bit of the polish of Nevermind and the raw Punk meets Metal approach found on Bleach, with influences from Alternative bands like The Pixies and a little bit of Noise Rock for good measure. You have songs like Tourettes, an angry and intense Punk song, the noisy and decidedly radio unfriendly Milk It, which makes you wonder how the album became so popular with mainstream listeners (until you remember that Nirvana’s name is on the album), and the heavy Scentless Apprentice, which is great to headbang to and features Kurt’s legendary scream. Of course, not all the songs are unpolished anti-pop fare. For one, there’s the Polly-esque Dumb, and the beautiful All Apologies, which is acoustic and stands out from the noisy songs. Then there are the songs that combine both approaches. Serve The Servants, for example, is noisy, yet at the same time, it’s also accessible, especially the chorus. Heart Shaped Box was a heavy song, but it was approachable by a mainstream audience, becoming one of the band’s most popular songs. All sorts of different elements are heard throughout the album.
Another area where the album excels is in its lyrics, which is just as much as important to the album’s greatness as the music. Lyrically speaking, In Utero outshines both Bleach and Nevermind by a long shot. Kurt has said that the lyrics to Bleach were written the night before recording amd was not all that fond of them. Nevermind’s lyrics are improved, but not quite there yet. That’s not to say that the lyrics on the other two albums are bad, because they are pretty good, but they can’t live up to the lyrical genius of In Utero. This time around, Kurt sang about his frustration and boredom with his success and the music industry. The opening line of the album sarcastically states that “Teenage angst has paid off well,” a shot at the media for proclaiming him the spokesman for an angry generation. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle is based on Kurt and Courtney’s troubles with the media and the tabloids that got their daughter taken away from them. Not only that, but the lyrics are definitely more disturbed on this album, with Kurt singing about pain, death, and medical themes throughout the album. On Rape Me, he sings “My favorite inside source, I’ll kiss your open sores. Appreciate your concern, you’ll always stink and burn.” On Milk It, he sings “Look on the bright side is suicide” (which will no doubt cause people to look at the coincidences of this lyric and Kurt’s death). On Heart Shaped Box, he sings “Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.” As you can see, the lyrics are not only more evolved from previous albums, but also more disturbing.
Overall, this album is amazing. It’s has great music and great lyrics. All the elements on this album come together in a way that makes it just perfect. This album is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Although it would have been great if Nirvana would have continued as a band, this album is the perfect swan song for an amazing band. I’m just going to say it: In Utero is the greatest album of all time.