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Nirvana: 30 years of In Utero

A+2023+In+Utero+CD+being+sold+in+stores.+
A 2023 In Utero CD being sold in stores.

For most people, Nirvana boils down to either the Nevermind album or the band’s tragic end, but more focus needs to be put on the group’s last studio album, which is, arguably, their most important: In Utero.  

Partially a culmination of Kurt Cobain’s stresses from such things as becoming one of the world’s most recognizable faces in rock practically overnight from the success of his band’s second album (but, more specifically, from the success of Smells Like Teen Spirit), as well as his new found responsibilities as a father while battling a drug addiction that was kept from the public, In Utero stands out in Nirvana’s short catalog as their angriest, most delicate project.

By the time Dave Grohl, Kirst Novoselic, and Kurt Cobain started recording what would be their final album, the press had already attacked the band’s frontman and his wife, Courtney Love, slamming them at every chance they could for their drug addictions, greatly exaggerating their problems to ridiculous proportions. This isn’t to say their addictions should be downplayed – they both had major problems, but the press always attempted to magnify their issues in order to get the public’s attention. Not only this, but more emphasis was being put on Kurt and his personal struggles rather than his projects musically. 

Half a year before the members started to record In Utero, Nirvana headlined at the Reading Music Festival, only 12 days after the birth of Cobain and Love’s daughter, Frances Bean. During the concert, the frontman stopped and mentioned how, “…there’s been some pretty extreme things written about us, especially my wife, and now she thinks everyone hates her.” 

This, unfortunately, wouldn’t be the only case of the press ambushing the band. 

During interviews, reporters would attempt to get specific answers from the band members. They would attempt to box Cobain into specific ideas, wanting nothing more but answers immediately. Attacking them constantly like pirannhas, Cobain got himself into situations like this: 

With In Utero, Cobain wanted to challenge the idea of Nirvana people had solidified in their minds post-Nevermind. The reason for his doing this could be, again, not wanting to be boxed into a specific sound or idea by the public.

Metallica, during their Loaded and Reloaded era, for example, had changed their apperances by cutting their iconic long hairs and changing their sound up. This was met harshly by fans, who expected Metallica to be one singular thing, for what appeared to be forever. Cobain more than likely knew the probability of this happening to them was great, since Nirvana was already one of the most popular bands in the world. 

And so, In Utero was taken in a direction more reminiscent of the band’s first album, Bleach. With the help of producer Steve Albini, the dirty, chaotic, and messy sounds found on every song of In Utero challenged the idea of Nirvana people had set in stone in their minds after the surprise success of Nevermind.

The record, which would be their last, filled with anger and frustration, was met with mostly positive reviews, with Cobain’s lyricism and catchy melodies being heavily praised. Today, 30 years later, In Utero is still loved by fans and non fans alike, and in the 30th anniversary release, all the songs have been remastered, and new live shows have been released. The reissue is more than just a rerelease of an album on it’s anniversary, however; it serves as a celebration of all which Kurt Cobain, Kirst Novoselic, and Dave Grohl were able to achieve as young twenty-somethings while facing the challenges that come with fame. Kurt was very troubled (even those close to him going as far as to say that his death wasn’t some unforseeable or random tragedy), but above that, he was a musician with an infinite amount of passionate found on each of his songs, and should be remembered more for the iconic sounds he managed to come up with rather than his personal life. 

As, at the end of the day, it’s his music which will live on forever.

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