Nirvana – In Utero – Round 74 – Graham’s Choice

Well this is a first. A review of an albumdownload I didn’t actually intend to play at DRC. I took this along simply as evidence that I had found something in line with my spontaneous theme. Before I could reach for my ‘theme stretching’ offering everyone else decided they wanted to hear it and it was already on. Still I’m sure I can find another theme to stretch in due course to squeeze in my original choice.

So what are my qualifications for writing up a review of this offering? I don’t own ‘Nevermind’, in fact I don’t recall ever  listening to it all. I came to Nirvana post ‘Unplugged’and being impressed by the tracks on here like ‘Dumb’, ‘All Apologies’ and ‘Penny Royal Tea’. Until this week’s round, they were really the only tracks I would flick to on this cd.   Without labouring the point then, this isn’t going offer much insight for Nirvana officienados out there.

But a strange thing happened during playing of this album. For the first time I actually sat there in Nick’s optimum listening position on the sofa and listened properly! I’ve clearly never done that before as I found power, angst, desperation, rawness, riffs, hooks and all sorts of stuff I’ve never tuned in to in previous listens when in car and in the background at home. Its obvious Kurt wasn’t a ‘happy bunny’ and it simply pours out of this record. How can you follow up  the explosion of  ‘Nevermind’? I don’t suppose you can, but then ‘muppets’ like me should at least be prepared to give this a proper listen and give it the credit it deserves.

Rob listened: I was there for Nirvana from the start. I loved them the first time I heard ‘Bleach’. I first heard the songs from ‘Nevermind’ live one afternoon at the Reading Festival before the album had been released and can still remember how it felt to have my mind blown that day by ‘Teen Spirit’ and ‘In Bloom’. I was waiting when that record came out and waiting when ‘In Utero’ was released 2 years later. I loved Nirvana hard.

Why then have their records been more or less shelf-bound for the last 20 years? Other artists get regular run-outs. I can only posit something to do with the total over-exposure to ‘Nevermind’. I’m not referring only to over-exposure in the culture, but even just in my house I practically wore the thing out, so much so that it just doesn’t seem to make any sense to go back to it. I do occasionally spin ‘Sliver’ or side one of ‘Bleach’. I’ll occasionally get an urge for ‘Molly’s Lips’ or ‘Been A Son’, but I never go back to the three studio albums in any serious way. Which, considering just how much I loved them first time around, is pretty stupid.

Unless, unless, these records are maturing, enriching with age. For sure, ‘In Utero’ gets better and better with age. Tonight it absolutely killed. Lyrically lacerating, rhythmically piledriving, packed with hooks and aggression and, yes dammit, good old fashioned corrosive angst. It has to be one of the finest rock records in history, a piece of work which both extends and justifies the form. If you’ve never heard it, hear it. If you’ve heard it before, hear it again, you’ll be amazed just how good it sounds.

Nick listened: I’m glad we ‘bullied’ Graham into playing this, because not only was it the most relevant choice for the theme, it’s also awesome, and I hadn’t heard it in a long time. I wasn’t around for Nirvana in anything like the way Rob – I was only 14 when Kurt died – and only really came to this album five years on from that, although I’d absorbed it via osmosis seemingly long before. I think it’s amazing, and much prefer it to Nevermind. Some people may have seen it as a failure, for whatever reason, but has a mainstream, multi-million-selling album ever been more sonically and emotionally brutal?

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