Nirvana - In utero (1993), 8/10

How do you follow the huge success of Nevermind? Throw your sounds in a distorted blender and cover it with dark, manic self-loathing. Obviously, there's a lot more substance to In utero than this simple change in direction, including Steve Albini's legendary work as engineer, but the raw energy and anger seems to result in such a satisfying middle finger to commercial success. The anger in "Scentless Apprentice" is so visceral it's physically jarring as a first impression, especially after such a tame, albeit satisfying and well placed, opener in “Serve the Servants”. Much of Kurt’s raw emotion through the whole record, even beyond the screams and clearly tortured performances, is so palpable that its effect is indeed physical, or at least deeply moving. The wonderful thing about In utero and its appeal is that whether you enjoy the wonderfully successful classic rock influenced pop side of Kurt's songwriting displayed on Nevermind or the deeply rooted primal rage explored on Bleach, you get both in spades and it is all heightened by the approach the band took in the studio and their newfound maturity both in ethos and in their somehow grander yet more intimate sound. Not to mention flawless, charged performances from Dave and Krist that create the unshakeable backbone that Nirvana could always lean on during their short career. While I prefer Kurt’s chaotic side, his talent for infectious composition is undeniable and practically built for radio on songs like “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Dumb”, “Pennyroyal Tea” or “All Apologies”. There is even a blending of these two styles on “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” and “Very Ape” with varying degrees of success. Yet there is still some punk fueled madness sprinkled in the mix for those of us who need that extra jolt. It can be a supremely important record for many, myself included, for its simultaneous accessibility yet flirtation with raw noise, resulting in an album that is quite effective at expanding one’s possibilities and broadening taste. One of the greatest three-piece bands of all time at their peak in every facet.