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A Review of "In Utero" the Final Studio Album by Alternative Rock Band Nirvana Before the Death of Kurt Cobain

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

This cover of the album In Utero continues the tradition of strange album covers by Nirvana. The music is better though.

This cover of the album In Utero continues the tradition of strange album covers by Nirvana. The music is better though.

"In Utero" Track Listing

  1. "Serve the Servants"
  2. "Scentless Apprentice"
  3. "Heart Shaped Box"
  4. "Rape Me"
  5. "Frances Farmer will Have Her Revenge on Seattle"
  6. "Dumb"
  7. "Very Ape"
  8. "Milk It"
  9. "Pennyroyal Tea"
  10. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter"
  11. "Tourette’s"
  12. "All Apologies"

Here Is an Interesting Musical Observation About "In Utero"

Seattle based grunge rock band Nirvana formed in 1987 had attained so much popularity and commercial success by the early 1990’s that you would have thought they could go farther. Their 1993 album called In Utero is a decent release but it is not as good as Bleach or Nevermind. This album was memorable for me because I would listen to this pretty often in 1994.

For many of us, Nirvana and Kurt Cobain specifically was considered to be a spokesperson for the Generation X, something he was never comfortable with. In Utero may be the dirtiest release for Nirvana because of all the feedback caused by the amplifier that you will hear much later in the album but it is not their most raw album if that makes any sense.

"Serve the Servants" and "Scentless Apprentice"

Listening to this album in 2022, this is one of those Nirvana albums that is starting to grow on me and knowing that is a comforting and good thing. Other than that part where there is the vocal scream of “go away” Scentless Apprentice is a decent song overall. The drum style sets the tone for this one. This was one of the weak points of In Utero at the first draft of this writing, but as of now, it is a song made better due to the genius of Dave Grohl’s drumming. Listening to “Serve the Servants” for what may seem like the millionth time. I get the sense that the first two lyrical lines are actually really good and they fit with the context of the song. This is despite the fact that the chorus repeats itself. Lyrically, the song Serve the Servants actually addresses Cobain's frustration with his father because of what happened with his parents divorcing. One really needs to read and analyze the lyrics well enough to notice this.

"Heart Shaped Box" May Be the Most Famous Song of This Last Nirvana Studio Album

"Heart Shaped Box" is the most well-known song on the album and there was a music video made for it. It has a nice soft guitar part in the beginning and it goes back to that in the middle of the song as well. One thing I find strange about Nirvana is that their lyrics don’t seem to make much sense.

The beginning part of "Heart Shaped Box" though still is very memorable even almost 30 years after the release of this album. Is "Heart Shaped Box" a defining moment for this album? Most definitely. The first line uttered by Kurt Cobain though is the most memorable part of the lyrics.

The line following that first line is memorable as well because you may find yourself wanting to sing along too. That line is when Kurt sings: “I’ve been locked inside your heart shaped box for weeks.”

The Larger Context Behind "In Utero" Goes Beyond the Songs

This album shows how much personal trouble Kurt Cobain was in because you could tell by the strain in his voice particularly the first two songs. “Dumb” is one of those songs that is indicative of the fact that Kurt Cobain was frustrated with being famous. How can you be having fun when you think you are dumb? The heavy song called "Very Ape" is really short clocking in at less than 2 minutes but it is very entertaining. The goodness of the album continues into the next song called Milk It. The song features soft mumbling parts by Cobain before he begins to shout very loudly. "Pennyroyal Tea" is another popular song on the album which was played live by the band in New York City in 1994. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" has some senseless amplifier feedback before getting into a heavy song. I wonder what the band was thinking when they included that part. "Tourette’s" is another very heavy song that is very short. This one contains very heavy, dirty guitar tone and some more screams by Cobain. In spite of that I think this is a great song to listen to and get excited about the day.

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"Pennyroyal Tea"

Favorite Song On the Album In Utero

A Brief Discography of the band Nirvana

Year releasedAlbum title 

1989

Bleach

 

1991

Nevermind

 

1992

Incesticide

 

1993

In Utero

 

1994

Unplugged: LIVE in New York

"Milk It"

The album ends with the song "All Apologies" which was also played live by the band in New York City during their tour. Sadly, In Utero would be Nirvana’s last album because Kurt Cobain would commit suicide thus ending the band’s career.

"Scentless Apprentice" 2013 Version

Final Thoughts About "In Utero" Up to 2022

In Utero for a final album is decent but I’m sure that Kurt Cobain would not have wanted to end this way. The strongest songs in the album are Heart Shaped Box, Very Ape, Milk It, Pennyroyal Tea, and Tourette’s. The album gets a total score of 75 out of 100 points after the initial review of the album. Is it any better than that as time has passed? It is not a better album that Bleach or Nevermind even if the production is better than Bleach. As of 2022, this last Nirvana studio album gets 80 out of 100 points. One song that we didn’t mention in this review is track #5 which has a very long title. It starts out with some weird guitar plucking sounds before getting heavy. This is one of those songs that takes a really long time for some us to get used to. Though the riffing interlude in this song is pretty good.


Additional Perspective About In Utero

Note: the song on this album with a long title is “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.” There is more than likely one line in the lyrics that may impress you or attract your attention and that line is “I miss the comfort in being sad.” Even though this is the weakest song on In Utero, when you get used to this one, you will like it. The repeating guitar part in the middle of the song is also something that Nirvana experimented with and in this case, it works.

Best Nirvana Album

In 2022 In Utero Stands Out as a Better Album Than Before

As of 2022 it can be said that there are officially no bad songs on this final Nirvana studio album and there is comfort among some of us that at least Kurt Cobain “finished” his Nirvana career in a good way musically even though he physically departed from this world. However, my favorite lyrical line in this album comes from the song Milk It where Cobain utters “obituary birthday.” It is just the way that he sings this line that makes it so memorable. Like it or not, In Utero is Nirvana’s darkest release but it has aged very well like a fine wine that you can always drink.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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