Sound — 10
This is the noisiest, least accessible pop album ever made, and for good reason. After Nevermind, Kurt Cobain wanted an album to in essence, "test" fans they had unwittingly gained in their previous album. This is almost the antithesis of Nevermind. Whereas Nevermind was a heavy, punk influenced, rock band breaking into the mainstream with heavily produced poppy songs, In Utero was a pop rock band becoming experimental with a bare-bones production. Kurt plays his guitar like a madman in this album. The riffs are more intricate than Nevermind, and are incredibly hard-edged. Though Krist Novoselic's bass isn't as pronounced as it was in Nevermind, the lines he plays are incredibly strong. Many lack the melodic hook he usually incorporated, but it contributes to the sound of the album more than most realize. Dave Grohl's drumming is perfect. Nevermind shows him off, but this album has the drums as the most easily heard instrument in the mix. He goes from pounding the skins like there's no tomorrow on harder tracks, then a soft and thoughtful rhythm on others. The inclusion of other instruments is done well, if sparingly, especially the cello on All Apologies. Steve Albini's production is genius, giving the album a feel like everything was done in one take. The band is also in their best songwriting form, and musically is every bit as good as their breakthrough Nevermind.
Lyrics — 10
Kurt's lyrics have always been great. This album though, really shows off the best that ever came from his pen. Maybe the most powerful lyric is the very first one in the entire album: "Teenage Angst has paid off well, Now I'm bored and old." In one sentence, Kurt put into perspective everything they, and pretty much every grunge band had achieved to that point. He continues this angry and desperate sounding theme through many of the songs. Scentless Apprentice is a creepy story of killing virgins to make perfume. Very Ape contains another one of my all time favorite lyrics: "If you ever need anything please don't, hesitate to ask someone else first, I'm too busy acting like I'm not naive, I've seen it all, I was here first." Rape Me and Radio Friendly Unit Shifter are very impressive attacks on the music industry (though the former is a little obvious). Tourette's is the angriest love song I've ever heard. Then, there's the mournful side of Kurt. Dumb and Pennyroyal Tea are confessional songs that give an insight into Kurt's mind, and even his life. Heart Shaped Box will always be the most famous on this album, and the lyrics are the most typical of Nirvana songs. The words are juxtaposed in an odd way and to the layman it may sound like it means nothing. The disjointed wording makes this song the more mysterious, ranging this song from a deep love song, to a song about childhood cancer (as Kurt said), and back again. Then, there's All Apologies. The best lyrical masterpiece Kurt ever did. No song has ever been written that gave me chills more than this, especially the closing chant. "All Alone is all we are..." Nothing more really can be said. Through it all, however, Kurt's voice is great. His singing ability is an odd combination. He's gravely and raspy, yet still has a very melodic and nice tone. Maybe the only artist in history where drug use almost made his voice better. Steve Albini's capturing of the vocals are just as impressive as the vocals themselves. What you hear is what you get. There's no studio wizardry there. Every ounce of emotion Kurt is giving is being received, no more, no less.
Overall Impression — 10
01. Serve the Servants: this song pairs some of the more hard-hitting lyrics in Nirvana's catalogue with the hands down best guitar riff he ever wrote. 10/10 02. Scentless Apprentice: unlike most of their other songs, this one was a completely cooperative musical endeavor, it even started with a Dave Grohl drum beat. Previously mentioned dark lyrics. 8/10 03. Heart Shaped Box: the song on the album that best exploits the alt-rock staple of quiet verse-exploding chorus. Lyrics are mysterious and intricate. Beautiful. 10/10 04. Rape Me: a well known song from this album that I find a bit overrated. A very strong song, but not on the level that many of the others on the album are. 7/10 05. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle: the quiet/loud dynamic shifts are done quite well, and the lyrics are more straightforward than most Nirvana songs, but a dark, well done song. 8/10 06. Dumb: a great way to continue the album. After four barn-burners, a dark and thoughtful song really paces the album well, and has very strong lyrics. 9/10 07. Very Ape: a simple, yet very effective song. Heavy, it's a short burst of awesome punk rock attitude. Great lyrics as well. 9/10 08. Milk It: an experimental song to a certain extent. Quiet/loud dynamics used well again, but this song takes that to a different level. Interesting lyrics, but not one of the stronger songs on the album. 6/10 09. Pennyroyal Tea: an interesting look into the mind of one Kurt Donald Cobain. Stomach problems, social ability, just life in general. A quiet, and very thoughtful song that shows Kurt at one of his most emotional. 9/10 10. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter: the better of the two anti-music industry songs on the album. It's got an ironic name, and it has more of his mysterious lyrics, and an incredibly cool riff. 9/10 11. Tourette's: Punk Rock. Anger and frustration. Pure and Simple. My only problem with this song is that it's too short. 10/10 12. All Apologies: the most beautiful song Cobain ever wrote. It has the most original melody Nirvana ever used, and his lyrics and voice are pitch perfect. 10/10 Though Nevermind may be better and more influential on a historical level. In Utero is the purer Nirvana album. It's more powerful, less produced, and more honest. It also is a better listen all the way through, as it sounds more like a concept album where every song contributes to the whole. It will always be underrated, and I wouldn't have it any other way.