"I'm gonna be a superstar musician, kill myself and go out in a flame of glory, just like Jimi Hendrix. "
It happened nearly exactly like that. But before Kurt died Nirvana released 3 albums. Only 3, but albums which changed the history and the route of rock music, giving space to newly born genres and bands.
In Utero is the last work of Nirvana, the most mature one. And it shouldn't be a great surprise. After unpredictable success of Nevermind the band was eager to return to its pure roots of underground, independent music.. And they managed it!
But In Utero is not just a piece of music produced by "an American grunge band Nirvana who made a revolution in music industry". Its story goes deeper than that. So if you are ready then let's go into 41+7 minutes of one of the most sincere, personal and intimate albums of all times.
Serve The Servants
Teenage angst has paid off well, now I'm bored and old.
These are the first words to be heard on the album as an answer to all your expectations from this piece of work, obviously linking to anarchical Smells Like Teen Spirit. And the change isn't only about growing old. It's about album itself. During the recording Nirvana didn't show any draft work to the record company or responsibles for the album. And they remixed the album numerous times. Kurt Cobain wanted to get the live sound they lost in Nevermind.
If she floats than she is not a witch like we had thought
It's an old sign to find out if the woman is a witch or not. This line is about hunting on Courtney Love who has been stoned by the journalists for taking drugs while she was pregnant.
That legendary divorce is such a bore
Kurt was bored about all those talks of his childhood, the divorce of his parents and stated many times that it was a usual thing for many kids of his age.
This is a song addressed to many people and Kurt's father had his place in it:
I tried hard to have a father
But instead I had a dad
When Nirvana became popular after Nevermind, Donald Cobain came to one of the concerts of Nirvana. And that's what Kurt told him:
I just want you to know that I
Don't hate you anymore
There is nothing I could say
That I haven't thought before
Many people think that being a rock star, living under bridges, not finishing school, Kurt Cobain should be not educated.
"I am not read well, but when I do read, I read well", - Kurt Cobain.
He had a favourite book - Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind. Kurt found similarity between him and the hero of the novel stating that he couldn't stay the smell of people.
Like most babies smell like butter,
His smell smelled like no other
This is one one of the most complicated songs in the album not only in the sense of lyrics but also its history. Kurt wrote a song about children who had cancer but forgot about it for a long time. When he got back to it, the song has changed a bit and as Kurt stated it consisted of different lines from different lyrics. The song title probably comes from the present Courtney gave him when they first met. It had a shape of heart. But there are not only children and boxes in the song.
I've been locked inside your Heart-Shaped box for a week..
Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back..
These lines perfectly describe Kurt's dependence from Courtney and drugs (behind the lines).
Rape Me has some reasons to remind you Smells Like Teen Spirit with its guitar riffs. After a huge success of the song and "popularization" of Nirvana Kurt couldn't do any step without being followed by a big number of fans and "journalists" who made his last years a really nightmare talking and printing and shooting about his addiction to drugs.
"Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with with your self esteem." - Kurt Cobain
Rape me, rape me my friend
Rape me, rape me again
I'm not the only one, I'm not the only one
I'm not the only one, I'm not the only one
Hate me, do it and do it again
Waste me, rape me my friend
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
The story of Fraces Farmer has been talked by Nirvana for thousands of times and the reason of this song appearing in the album is revenge, revenge against mass media:
In her false withness, we hope you're still with us
To see if they float or drown..
She'll come back as fire, to burn all the liars
And leave a blanket of ash on the ground
Being a written a while ago, this song perfectly expressed "high times" of Kurt and Courtney together. A little bit in The Beatles style, this song is one of the most melodic works in the album.
My heart is broke but I have some glue
Help me inhale and mend it with you
We'll float around and hang out on clouds
Then we'll come down and I have a hangover, have a hangover..
This is one of the non-sense songs of Nirvana.. But no.. Not too non-sense!
I take pride as the kind of illiterature
I'm very ape and very nice
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
Probably Kurt is singing about himself, not reading too much and comparing himself with an ape.
Here comes the darkest song in the album. Unexpected sound, trembling vocals, without any melody you can follow but still impressive and scary.
I am my own parasite, I don't need a host to live
We feed off of each other, we can share our endorphins
I won my own pet virus, I get to pet and name her
Her milk is my shit, my shit is her milk
And one more thing we should pay attention to. Although Kurt refused it but many musical critics state that like Nevermind had a main subject - guns and ammunition, In Utero is full of lines about illness, wounds which is growing up to suicide in Milk It:
Look on the bright side is suicide
Lost eyesight I'm on your side
Pennyroyal Tea can cause abortion. In this sense, for Kurt it's a subject of cleaning yourself.. in a certain melodic and lyrical way:
I'm on warm milk and laxatives
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
Only a few lines to understand that this song refers to post-Nevermind period, adressed to the fans, media:
Use just once and destroy
Invasion of our piracy
I do not want what I have got
What is wrong with me, what is wrong with me
What is wrong with me
Hate, hate your enemies
Save, save your friends
Find, find your place
Speak, speak the truth
The most non-sense song of Nirvana.. from the first sight. Kurt stated that there are no lyrics for the song and he's just shouting. The song was first titled Fuck, Shit, Piss. Maybe a clue to the song can be Kurt's words, that he doesn't want to become a crazy old man, living in the streets and sick with Tourette's syndrome.
Kurt said that he would like to think this song is about his wife Courtney and daughter Francis but it wasn't. Well, in the lyrics.. But maybe in the melody..
All alone is all we all are
This line could be a perfect ultimate phrase in the album but there is another song included as a bonus track in In Utero.
Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip
Released only on non-US version of In Utero, this is another non-ordinary records of Nirvana, much more like a conversation with someone than a song. Completely "drunk" song and it seams that Cobain composes the lyrics while he is singing. A live song with strange lines:
Wish I had more ... more opportunity,
More chances to remember some things
So I couldn't have so much pressure on my ...
On my ... on my, um ... ah, on my ... um ... um ... head
You're ... personally responsible for, uhh ...
The entire strip ... to be washed away ...
Cleansed ... as if gallons of, um, rubbing alcohol
Flowed through the strip and were set on fire.
It didn't just singe the hair, it made it straight.
And then Perry Ellis came along with his broom,
And his ... silk ...
And he ... he erected a beautiful city ...
A city of stars.
A city of stars.. These are the last words in the album.. the last words in the album produced by Nirvana. Many other records will come out to public later but personally for me this is the last thing Kurt Cobain would like to say out loud.
This is a record from Nirvana where Kurt said almost everything he wanted to say, like a confession, meanwhile wishing to stay safe, in utero.
And I would like to end up with a sentence I have read in an article about Nirvana:
"If Kurt Cobain was born 10 years later in one of the thousands of aberdeens and was admired by the music of Nirvana, the biggest tragedy for him would be the fact that he would never hear the new record of this band" - Unknown source