Stand Out Albums has been a showcase for my favorite albums across the vast performers that I love. Covering a little bit of everything from classic rock to country hits, much like Key Movies of My Life, it has been the albums that shaped me. This year, I am taking a slightly different approach by discussing the discographies of my favorite musicians, album by album, in release order.
Since we have already discussed one of my first loves in music, lets jump ahead 30 some odd years to a band than helped shape my modern taste in music while also inadvertently helping define an entire generation.
Today we discuss the final studio album of one of the most influential bands in my life. The band, Nirvana, the album In Utero.
Why This Album?
When this album released, we had no idea that this would essentially be the last ‘new’ music that we would ever hear from Nirvana again. Hitting the shelves and ultimately our cd players, we became obsessed with each and every track even moreso than the albums before. Gone was the radio-friendly rock album and in it’s place an artistic balance between the uniformity of Nevermind coupled with the sludgy independence of Bleach. This was clearly a personal album for Kurt and Co with song lyrics like ‘I’ll take all the blame’ in All Apologies, to tales pulled from horror novels in Scentless Apprentice. Before long I learned that foreign pressings of this album contained a bonus track entitled ‘Gallons of Alcohol flow through the Strip and, of course’, I did everything I could to posses a copy and, when I did, I was not dissapointed with the songs rather Jim Morrison feeling ramblings. There was even a ‘clean’ version some stores carried where the song title ‘rape me’ was altered to ‘waif me’, yeah, we made sure we owned that one too.
The album itself is a barrage of sound coupled with the genius of the band that was Nirvana. With iconic tunes such as Pennyroyal Tea and Rape me coupled with some of my favorite tracks Frances Farmer and Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, there is a certain chaos to this album that is beautiful in it’s insanity. Interestingly, it is on the single for Heart Shaped Box that we got our first taste of Dave Grohl at the microphone with a gorgeous tune called Marigold hinting at the band that would become Foo Fighters not a year later.
Even now, when I listen to this release, I feel the sense of finality in it. While none of the band members, including the newly added Pat Smear who would tour with them and appear on Unplugged in NY, could have known that this was the end, there are moments where it seems in retrospect that Kurt knew he wouldn’t be around much longer. It was clear he put everything he had into this evolution of their sound and, having pushed his boundaries he did what he always said he would do, burn out rather than fade away.
While we lamented the loss of Kurt and Nirvana a year later, there was still one more ‘official’ release before everything was over. More on that one next week.
Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle. Damn what a song. Intense and powerful, while also making you look into the origin of just who Francis Farmer was. (Look her up, trust me). The song also echo’s a statement that I recognize more and more the older I get. ‘I miss the comfort in being sad’. Simply put, sometimes sorrow is something that is comforting but, if you are not carful that sorrow can spiral out of control. When you end up on medication for that sorrow, you sometimes miss it’s promise of comfort.
Dumb. I Can’t tell you how much I identified with this song as a teen. “I think I’m Dumb, or maybe just happy” summed up my sense of self worth in so many ways back then. Kurt fully captured my feelings in this tune and it was truly incredible to feel like others out there felt the same way I did at the time.
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter. Ironically I used to claim this as my favorite track in almost an ironic sense because it is literally about the idea of a ‘Radio Friendly’ song being forced on the band. So, when someone asked what my favorite track was, I would answer ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ of course. Before long, it actually became one of my favorites maybe because of the irony it offered. It’s a noisy messy tune that harkens back to the first album ‘Bleach’ and is just spectacular in every way.
Ok, Where do I get it?
As usual. grab a copy here. This is probably one of the best of the 90’s and one that you really should have in your collection. If you just want a taste (as well as some of the rather rad extras) listen to it here. Please though, give it a go and return to that time 30 years ago…
Late to the Game 4/27/2021
Thanks for reading, If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and also check out some retro tv goodness with the ongoing series Retro TV Reviews here. You can also find a few of my other Music Reviews Here.
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