This is Kurt letting us under his drug addled, membrane-thin skin...
Eamonn Stack 2007
In Utero was released September 1993, the follow-up to the phenomenally successful Nevermind from 1991. This was Nirvana getting back to their rawer roots. It was as if once Cobain had achieved the success he would never publicly admit he craved, Nirvana could shed all pretence and be themselves once again.
They dispensed with Butch Vig’s smooth, chart-topping touch, in exchange for indie-veteran Steve Albini's workman-like punk and indie anti-hero kudos.
It seems odd that a record something so unexpectedly successful could spawn something that so apparently attempts to be the opposite, but such was the staggering level of expectation post-Nevermind that Nirvana brilliantly seek to upset and confound absolutely everyone.
This is Kurt letting us under his drug addled, membrane-thin skin, into the recesses of his fragile mind, to play air-drums and head-bang with his demons, of which there are many.
It’s a diary of the damage wrought by having an extraordinary dream come true but not coping well with the consequences. Cobain is tapping the listener into the competing urges behind the obsessive, manically-depressive, contradictory, bleak, vulnerable and lonely voices in his head.
In Utero noisily hops between feedback-drenched, searing barrages of emotion to complex and catchy, credible and clever pop-punk dissertations; underneath the sharper edges Nirvana’s talent for melody and memorable songwriting are still alive and kicking.
Albini’s production revels in the fact that the instruments aren’t so much being played as being kicked around while having their necks wrung, he also captures a more charming, human aspect to Cobain’s vocals and the painful persistence and desperation of his trademark screams.
It's powerful, personal, psychological, physiological, scatological, paranoid, frenzied and exhausting, beautifully frank and funny and poetic and infectious and disarming and saddening and upsetting and willfully uncomfortable. And great.