In Utero (DGC)

That Summer Feels Nirvana: Charles Rocha of L.A.-based punkish project That Summer told us about his love for Nirvana‘s awkward gem.

Charles Rocha: My favorite album is Nirvana’s In Utero.  A monumental fuck you to “the industry” which the band flipped on its head two years prior.  Recorded live and mixed in just two weeks, the album debuted at number one on Billboard’s charts, despite 18 month’s of bad press which fueled Cobain’s lyrical focus (“Rape Me”).  The album was trash talked by industry insiders before its release, and 3rd generation bootlegs were sent to FM radio for play on-air.  It was certainly not the slick, polished production that was NevermindIn Utero was a shotgun blast reaction to the mainstream success Nevermind delivered.  It was punk, it was crass and it was dissonant and loud.

In Utero Nirvana album cover 1


Besides my appreciation for the style and sound of Steve Albini’s recording techniques, as well as Kurt Cobain’s anatomical, feminine and flower-laden album art, THE SONGS of In Utero are some of the best compositions of the 20th century, and indeed, a gift to the world, which have, and will, stand the test of time.  The formulaic Pixies style quiet-loud-quiet delivery (“Heart-Shaped Box,” “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle,” “All Apologies”) embodied with their biggest fan’s voice (Kurt Cobain admitted when he wrote “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he was essentially trying to rip off Pixies) and Cobain’s knack for emoting in acoustic melody and melancholy (“Dumb,” “Pennyroyal Tea”) is masterfully juxtaposed with intensity. Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl wailing “Rape Me” in a crescendo call and answer, or whatever the fuck Cobain is screaming about on “Tourette’s.”  The words didn’t particularly matter to me when I was a kid.  It made me feel adrenaline, and it was exciting.  Finally, throw in my favorite piece of Nirvana’s attack… straight ahead, furious punk rock, driven by Grohl’s powerful hard hitting drums in perfect rhythm with Novoselic’s groovey, fluid bass lines and Cobain’s power-chords (“Radio Friendly Unit Shifter,” “Milk It,” “Very Ape”)… In Utero was punk rock that shaded the edges of pop.

Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl only gave us two albums as Nirvana, and what a glorious gift that was.  Most bands will not construct in a lifetime what Nirvana achieved in those two years between 1991 and 1993.  In my opinion, the better of those offerings was In Utero.  Long after the music industry has echoed its death rattle, and the puppets who helped bring its demise find themselves in healthy retirement, kids and teenagers all over the world will still hear In Utero for their first time, and want to start learning guitar and writing songs to scream into a microphone like the three guys they hear on that tape.  The album was a battle cry in an ongoing war against the industry and mass media that promoted it, because pain is profitable.  In Utero will long outlive the members of the band, the producers and engineers that helped craft it and the fans who followed Nirvana from obscurity to mainstream revolution and ultimately into oblivion.  And that’s exactly what good art should do.

That Summer Feels Nirvana: That Summer’s “Dangerous Backgrounds” single is out now, with an album out later this year.

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