Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Utero (1993)

If Kurt Cobain is John Lennon, and Kurt Cobain's oppressive punk-rock superego is Yoko Ono, then this is his Double Fantasy. When the superior pop instincts get to hold sway, as on approximately half the tracks here, I think this is about as good as it ever got for Nirvana. When, on the other half, his internal punk-rock taskmaster takes over and runs the show—talking now about the guy who hired Steve Albini to produce in the first place—the going gets a little tougher. (The poor guy, with fans and critics grumbling about degrees of purity and his lack thereof, with a harpy shrieking away non-stop in the background of his life, and on top of everything with a wicked drug habit that wouldn't let go. How was he ever supposed to concentrate?) Also as with Double Fantasy (following which I will immediately cease the comparison and never bring it up again, and that's a promise), it's not easy to separate this final missive from the events that followed in its more or less inadvertent wake. My advice is to just get picky about it. If you like that noisy stuff, and despise the tuneful work as craven selling out, stay focused on that. Turn it up even. If, like me, you like the pop tunes, remember that CDs and most music players are programmable and you really don't have to bother that often with "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" and its ilk. Above all, I say, keep in mind that anyone who could write things as transcendent as "Heart-Shaped Box," or "Pennyroyal Tea," or "All Apologies" (which you may believe, and perhaps you are right, that you have heard enough in your lifetime by now), or "Dumb," or "Rape Me"—well, that's someone eminently worth remembering and honoring and loving. God knows he could have used it when he was still breathing.

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