A secret memo regarding a 2013 reissue of the Nirvana album "In Utero" has been leaked, according to one report.
It appeared on the Collapse Board, and claims to be an internal memo being distributed between record label employees, though Buddyhead suggested it was being sent to mainstream music publications (which would never happen, certainly in our experience).
We're sceptical of its authenticity, but it raises a fair point: 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the final Nirvana album, so whether the memo is fake or not, certain elements might ring true as the year draws on.
The full "memo" is republished here. At the end, we'll explain why it seems fake, but also list the parts that a real label would do in this situation:
This memo is being sent out to prepare everyone for the major musical event of 2013. I am speaking, of course, about the 20th anniversary reissue of 'In Utero' by Nirvana. Our friends at Pitchfork will produce a news item around May letting people know that the reissue is coming. Details will be scant, but it will nevertheless grease the wheels and allow a suitable amount of excitement to build up before the actual reissue. When the reviews start to appear it is vital that they all hold to a similar pattern. To understand why this is the case we must look once more to The Beatles. The sheer amount of Beatles literature (and its continued market success) should tell us all one very important fact: people not only like to read the same story over and over again, they demand it. Our job is to retell the story, to reinforce the legends, to emphasise the inflexibility of the narrative. So, given these facts I've prepared some bulletin points that focus on what each review should highlight:
Give some brief background details. This is called SETTING THE SCENE. The Nirvana/Kurt Cobain legend must reinforce again and again the idea of the reluctant star, the uncomfortable voice of a generation. I recommend the use of the term thrust into the limelight. It functions beautifully for our purposes. I can't stress enough that if the tragedy of the story is to emerge it can only do so from the idea of the reluctant star. 'Nevermind' made them famous. What would they do now? (If you must mention 'Incesticide', be sure to call it a stopgap release.)
'In Utero' must be viewed as their attempt to regain punk credibility. Nirvana are on a major label, but you should present Cobain as a punk rocker at heart. Further tragedy can be wrung from the idea of the compromise that Nirvana made when they opted to sweeten two of the Steve Albini-produced tracks and make them more airplay friendly. (Please note: the original Albini-produced album will be available with the reissue. We have several bloggers working on reviews that seek to dismiss the original release and describe the original Albini mix as a revelation'. This should bring the 'Nevermind' haters on board).
The reissue itself. The best way to get people to buy an album twice is to say it has been remastered. This usually amounts to making it louder, but this is where reviews can be crucial. The reviewer must create an unscratchable itch in the reader that makes them view the original release as an inferior product. Phrases like went back to the original master tapes and working with the band help, but it must be more than that. Use other phrases like Cobain's aching howl sounds even more revelatory (be careful not to overuse revelation/revelatory), and indicate that the remastering job breathes new life into the album. Don't insinuate that the mix has changed, more that it has been enhanced so that you hear everything with new ears.
The bonus tracks. The original Albini mix will be a huge draw. Ultimately this will be the thing that convinces the doubters to part with their money. When dealing with the original Albini mix, explore the idea of compromise versus Cobain's original vision, and don't miss the opportunity to bring tragedy to the surface once again.
Summing up. Two things are essential when summing up 'In Utero': It must be touted as the best Nirvana album. A phrase like though 'Nevermind' was their breakthrough, 'In Utero' is undoubtedly their best should work fine. You might want to say may well be their best. We've already sold them Nevermind by making it seem like a special moment in musical history, so let's sell them In Utero by pointing out that it's actually their best. This time, it's all about the music. The second thing to emphasise is that 'In Utero' must be seen as the last will and testament of a soul not long for this world. Stress how dark, disjointed, and angry the album is. Stress its compromised creation. Be sure to include a sentence along the lines of just over six months after 'In Utero''s release Cobain would be dead by his own hand. By all means, mention heroin and suicide attempts but make sure Cobain's untimely death seems tragic yet inevitable.
Kurt Cobain: Reluctant star. Pressure. Compromise. Depression. Heroin. Death. It's that simple. Don't feel like you are selling yourself short by sticking to these guidelines. Instead know that you are performing a public service. You are providing comfort and certitude in a world of confusion. You are giving people something to believe in. You are helping to make the art of Kurt Cobain immortal. Expect more high profile media events along the lines of the Nirvana/McCartney collaboration before long and, with any luck, we can anticipate a lucrative last quarter in 2013. One last thing: is 2014 too early for a 15th anniversary of the first White Stripes album, or should we wait for the 20th anniversary? I look forward to your feedback. Let's make the myths.
So why do we think it's fake?
Because it's written in a way that a hobbyist would think someone at a label writes.
In reality, in any business, emails are a total pain and will usually be as brief as possible. Corporate emails will rarely try to appear smart and use such careful composition.
Take the first lines of the last paragraph as one example: "Kurt Cobain: Reluctant star. Pressure. Compromise. Depression. Heroin. Death. It's that simple." To think anyone would write to their colleagues like that is frankly hilarious.
We still agree that a label would make similar plans, whether it was written by an enterprising fan or not.
2013 is indeed the 20th anniversary of "In Utero", and the marketing effort around a reissue would centre around the "genius" of Kurt Cobain. It would reiterate his reluctance, his swift ascent to fame, and his punk rock morals. A remaster would present itself as "the ultimate edition, the way 'In Utero' was meant to be." And it would highlight comments over the years that "In Utero" was really the fan favourite, and that "Nevermind" was for the newbie listener. Several of these points might not be fair or true, but they would be study hooks for a marketing campaign to hang from.
What do you think? Has someone been reading the internet manipulation manual "Trust Me, I'm Lying" a little too much? Let us know what you think in the comments.