Review: Nirvana “In Utero” 20th Anniversary Edition

Despite Nevermind being more influential in my life, I consider In Utero to be their masterpiece. It’s hard to believe that September 13, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of its release. It feels like yesterday when I saw the CD & casette on the new release shelves.

NirvanaIn Utero 20th Anniversary Edition    

Reviewed by Eric Shewack • 5/5 stars

Nirvana recorded only three studio albums in their short but illustrious career. In Utero was their third and final. Despite Nevermind being more influential in my life, I consider In Utero to be their masterpiece. It’s hard to believe that September 13, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of its release. It feels like yesterday when I saw the CD & casette on the new release shelves. While there won’t be any new studio albums from Nirvana, the 20th anniversary release of their final does it much justice.

The super-deluxe edition consists of 3 CDs and a DVD. Disc 1 is the original album mixed by Steve Albini (except for “Heart-Shaped Box and “All Apologies,” which were mixed by Scott Litt). The bonus track “Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” which was not included on U.S. release of the album is also included. The rest of disc are the In Utero single B-sides: “Marigold” (the only Nirvana song completely composed and sung by Dave Grohl), the “All Apologies” single B-side “Moist Vagina,” Nirvana’s lesser-known gem “Sappy” from the No Alternative compilation, “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” from the The Beavis and Butthead Experience, “Pennyroyal Tea” (Scott Litt mix), a previously unreleased Albini mix of “Heart-Shaped Box” and finally the Albini “All Apologies” mix which in my opinion is better than the Litt mix on the original release album.

Disc two is an alternate version of the entire album entitled 2013 Mix. Basically, it’s just another way the album could have sounded and it’s fun to listen to. Some notable changes include an alternate solo on “Serve the Servants,” “Heart-Shaped Box” with a high blend of background vocals, and “Very Ape” with the lead guitar portion of the song running rampant throughout. The rest of disc two includes In Utero demos (some are a bit hard on the ear) and an instrumental Krist Novoselic found while compiling the re-release, simply coined “Forgotten Tune.”

The third audio disc is the complete, professional audio of the December 13, 1993 MTV Live & Loud performed at Pier 48 in Seattle. An incomplete version has been aired on MTV since its original airing on New Year’s Eve 1993 but MTV finally let it out of their vaults for this release. If only MTV would do the same for the July 23, 1993 show at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, Nirvana fans could finally get some peace……perhaps for the 30th anniversary.

The DVD is the video version of the Live & Loud show. The video quality is superior to all of the video bootlegs of the show being shuffled around for years. While the Live & Loud show does include a much-needed official release of an electric “Man Who Sold The World,” it’s not a complete, typical In Utero tour setlist. The show was shortened a bit to make room for the Breeders, Cypress Hill, and Pearl Jam who cancelled at the last minute due to Eddie Vedder falling ill. Bonus DVD tracks include rehearsals before the gig, the original “Heart-Shaped Box” video & director’s cut, live performances of tracks on French and Italian television, and finally, three tracks from the last show ever in Munich, Germany on March 1, 1994.

The 20th Anniversary Edition is pretty exhaustive and re-celebrates the release of one of rock’s most important albums. Except for some slightly rough demos on Disc 2 that casual fans may not appreciate, the remainder is high quality material that can be enjoyed by any music or Nirvana fan. Now that Nirvana’s three studio albums have been paid homage in anniversary releases, the Nirvana vaults are pretty much bare without much, if any “new” material to be surfaced. In Utero serves as a reminder of what could have been. It was the raw album that Cobain always envisioned and came out at the peak of his artistic ability as well. If the band would have continued perhaps they would have taken a softer acoustic turn, or follow in the direction of their last studio song “You Know You’re Right.”

Kurt Cobain included the line, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” in his suicide note. If that truly was his wish then In Utero served that purpose. The band’s last creative effort was arguably their best effort and they ended on top of their game.

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I May Roam

I had a difficult time deciding on a web address for my blog. Since I’m known for having thousands of song titles stored in my head, ready to be rattled off at any second, I decided to look through the more than 12,000 songs in my iTunes library for ideas.

I had a difficult time deciding on a web address for my blog. Since I’m known for having thousands of song titles stored in my head, ready to be rattled off at any second, I decided to look through the more than 12,000 songs in my iTunes library for ideas. I arranged my music library by artist and started going through the list. Bruce Springsteen begins with a “B” and my best friend often joked about every one of his songs being about a road, highway, etc. Although I see his point, I could not turn a Bruce Springsteen song into web address for my blog.

The Clash are one of my four favorite bands of all time, but I was unable to turn a Clash song into a web address. In what seemed like an hour later, I came upon another of my four favorite bands of all time: Metallica. As soon as I saw “Wherever I May Roam,” I thought of myself and the fact that the greatest days for me are usually the ones where I wake up and decide which direction I will go in.

This morning, I listened to Metallica (the “Black Album”) from start to finish (well ok, I skipped the 8th song) for the first time in many years. With Metallica and Pearl Jam, I rarely listen to their studio work because I have dozens of live Metallica shows and hundreds of live Pearl Jam shows. Since they are probably my two favorite live bands, I rarely listen to their studio work, but this morning I made an exception.

Brian in Lima, Rush in Rio

Thanks to my Netflix DVD subscription, I get all kinds of old wrestling and concert DVDs delivered to my door every week. As I’ve been planning my trip to Peru, I’ve been watching/listening to Rush in Rio, which was recorded in 2002 and released in 2003.

Earlier this month, I booked my 1st trip to South America in 7 years. Although I’ll be visiting Peru for my 36th birthday, I always thought Brazil would be the next South American country I’d visit.

Thanks to my Netflix DVD subscription, I get all kinds of old wrestling and concert DVDs delivered to my door every week. As I’ve been planning my trip to Peru, I’ve been watching/listening to Rush in Rio, which was recorded in 2002 and released in 2003.

RUSH is not one of my favorite bands. They have some songs I like. I’m a casual fan of their music up to and including Signals. If “Subdivisions” were not on Signals, I would then say that I’m a fan of their music up to and including Moving Pictures. Although this period adds up to less than 10 years of their 41 year career, it’s one year longer and one album more than Eddie Trunk said he prefers of the RUSH catalog. Like Eddie, I’m not much into synth music and although I consider Moving Pictures to be a good album, it did mark the period in their career where synths crept in.

One thing I really appreciate about this DVD is that like Eddie Vedder, Geddy Lee tries to speak the native tongue to the audience. Another thing I appreciate is the fact that they played two of their 10 minute masterpieces in the same show: “Natural Science” & “La Villa Strangiato.” Along with the 10 minute “The Camera Eye,” these are two of my favorite RUSH songs. For me, the other highlights from the DVD/CD are “Limelight” and “The Spirit of Radio.” Opening with “Tom Sawyer” is definitely a way to get the majority of the crowd into the show from the start. Based on what I’ve seen (on DVD) and read, South American audiences are the most intense by far.

When Rush in Rio was released, they were touring in support of their 17th studio album (Vapor Trails). Any band with such an extensive catalog is bound to disappoint some fans with what they leave out. Although Rush in Rio is nearly three hours, that amounts to less than 1/4 of their  (at the time) catalog. They skipped two of my favorites: “A Passage to Bangkok”, “Subdivisions.”

“A Passage to Bangkok” is special to me, because Thailand is special to me. Lyrically, “Subdivisions” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Whereas “Limelight” has one line that really stands out to me (“I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend”), “Subdivisions” is engaging from start to finish:

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

Subdivisions —
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Subdivisions —
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights…

I also have the  video in my iTunes and enjoy watching it whenever I’m using mass transit:

Another city I never thought I’d see

I spent 7 nights in Myanmar. 2 of those nights were spent in buses. I listened to every RAMONES studio album on this trip.

I wanted to ride this train, which loops around the city, but never had the chance.
I love mangosteen. This is what I saw when I stepped outside my hotel.
Every time I’ve traveled around Asia, my hosts always insist that I need to see every pagoda & temple.
I love taking pictures of road signs.
I spent 7 nights in Myanmar. 2 of those nights were spent in buses. I listened to every RAMONES studio album on this trip. At the end of my week there, I was ready to leave.

Inle Lake

Inle Lake was very beautiful. It was too loud to talk on the boat, but not too loud to listen to U2’s SONGS OF INNOCENCE.

Inle Lake was very beautiful. It was too loud to talk on the boat, but not too loud to listen to U2’s SONGS OF INNOCENCE.