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.

Good Food, Great Views in Southwest Brooklyn

I thought about how many “only in New York” moments we had during an 8 hour day there.

When I see or hear the date September 20, I think of Pearl Jam’s Backspacer and driving to a Target store in Massachusetts (where I was spending a long weekend on the day it was released) to purchase it. Target was the exclusive big chain retailer for Pearl Jam’s 9th studio album when it was released back in 2009. Well, September 20, 2015 was a more interesting day than I had 6 years ago.

Like I usually do, I drove to the Newport Centre Mall, parked my car and caught the PATH train into Manhattan.  Like my last NYC trip (2 weeks ago), I had a friend along for the adventure. We exited left at the Christopher Street station, turned right onto Bleecker Street to do some quick shopping.

Our first stop was Sugar and Plumm, where we had not stopped on the previous trip. We each got a box of six macarons and then headed to Royce Chocolate, where we each got a box of nama chocolate maccha. My friend also picked up another box of petite truffle pralines. During the warmer months, stopping at Royce also gives you the unique advantage of ice packs, designed to keep your chocolates cool for 7 hours. Although the weather was supposed to be in the 70s and sunny, it was quickly starting feel more like 80s.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my favorite macaron is the salted caramel at Bisous Ciao. That was our next stop. This time, I was the only one who bought anything. I had them fill half of the box (of 6) with salted caramel.

The plan for the day was to have lunch at Sottocasa in Boerum Hill, see Green-wood Cemetery to get some nice pictures of the upper bay and statue of Liberty and then head to Gantry Plaza State Park, walk along the river and have dinner in Long Island City. We boarded the F train at W 4 St-Washington Square and headed to Bergen Street. Although it would have been nice to take a train which goes over one of the bridges connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, the F was the most convenient option for where we were going and the ride went quick.

We exited at Bergen Street and took Smith Street north up to Atlantic Avenue. I’d been wanting to try Sottocasa since reading about it in Time Out New York. Since my friend preferred Keste (because of their use of fresh tomatoes on the Regina Margherita) over Luzzo’s, I thought she would appreciate Sottocasa. Their Reginella was the same as the Regina Margherita at Keste. Since I had someone to split the pie with, I suggested we also get a Nutella pizza and we did. I went there with the idea that we would just have a light lunch, but I left feeling like maybe I didn’t need to eat again until the next day.

Sottocasa at 298 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn
Sottocasa at 298 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn
Reginella at Sottocasa
Reginella at Sottocasa
Nutella Pizza at Sottocasa
Nutella Pizza at Sottocasa

We took a slower walk back to the Bergen Street station and I noticed We Olive, which I had visited back in February 2013 in San Francisco. The Brooklyn location is fairly new and their first on the east coast. Since we were only on our 2nd stop of the day and bottles of olive oil are heavier than boxes of French macarons, neither of us bought anything. At the next intersection (Dean & Smith streets), I noticed Bar Tabac, which I read about last month. There are other French restaurants and bistros between Cobble and Boerum Hills, but we happened to walk past this one. I glanced at their display menus and the dinner menu looked like the most interesting. It was too early for that, so we went back to the Bergen Street Station.

We boarded the G train (her 1st time and only my 2nd) with the intention of taking it to the last stop, but a young lady overheard us talking about going to Green-Wood Cemetery and she suggested changing to the R train and taking it to 25 st. Before we knew it, we were exiting the G train at 4 Av-9 St and boarding the R train. After going to the cemetery’s web site, I saw that this was a better way to enter. What I thought would be a quick photo op turned into a more than two hour visit and a ride from strangers. About an hour into our visit, a woman with a New Jersey license plate asked if we needed help. She offered to drive us around and we got into her car and she drove us around while explaining everything.

Green-wood cemetery Brooklyn NYC

Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn

When I realized how close we were to the end of the R line in Brooklyn, I thought it would be nice to walk over the Verranzano bridge. I quickly learned from Google that only the marathon runners do that once every year. The bridge is closed to pedestrians, but I still thought that rather than going up to Queens (which would take 30 minutes), it would be better to take the R train to the last stop (Bay Ridge 95 St) and at least get close to the Verranzano bridge.

What neither my friend nor I were counting on was getting a ride from Green-wood Cemetery to John Paul Jones Park. It’s at least a 20 minute ride, but it seemed like we were there in less than five. The man in the passenger seat was from Iowa and the driver was from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. They knew L & B Spumoni Gardens (my favorite restaurant in the 49 states and 37 countries I’ve visited so far) and reminded me that I needed to check out Di Fara, which never seems to work out when I’m in Brooklyn.

After they let us out of the car, we took a leisurely walk down to the pedestrian area under the Verranzano Bridge. The bright sun made photography a bit difficult, but it was still a nice experience. Although I’ve walked the George Washington and BMW (Brooklyn-Manhattan-Williamsburg) bridges, looking up at the longest suspension bridge in the Americas intimidated me a bit. Although I love walking and bicycling, I didn’t feel disappointed that the Verranzano Bridge is not open to pedestrians.

Verranzano bridge from the side
the sun was extremely bright all day, which made photography pretty challenging

Fort Hamilton Parkway exit

my shadow under the Verranzano Bridge
my shadow under the Verranzano Bridge

With a trip up to Gentry Plaza State Park out of the question. I thought it would be a nice idea to have dinner at Bar Tabac. The fact that the F train would not be stopping at 4 Av-9 St made this an even easier choice. We had to pick up the G instead and take that to Bergen Street. Instead of transferring to the F there, we got out and went to Bar Tabac (my friend’s 1st French restaurant experience ever). We shared the grilled hanger steak and les moulets frites marinieres (steamed Canadian mussels in white wine sauce with fries).

After dinner, we got the F train with the intention of taking it back to W 4 St-Washington Square, but before the train crossed into Manhattan, we started talking about ice cream. I was too full for ice cream, but not for sorbet. I’d been wanting to try Ice and Vice since I read about it, but had not been in the Two Bridges area since. We got out at the East Broadway stop and walked what seemed like a long couple blocks east to Ice and Vice. They are known for their creative flavors. They only had one sorbet and it had a citrusy flavor, which is what I was in the mood for. I got a cup and my friend got a cone of “gold digger” which is their combination of kalamansi and olive oil. I never heard of kalamansi before, but as soon as they said citrus, I said yes and my friend followed.

We both left feeling satisfied. After we got back in the F train, I thought about how many “only in New York” moments we had during an 8 hour day there. The first one was going to Boerum Hill to finally try Sottocasa and finding the first We Olive location on the east coast and then seeing Bar Tabac. The second one was getting a ride from strangers and the last was the fact that like usual, I went there with a itinerary in mind, but only did part of it. Instead of seeing Gentry Plaza State Park, we ended up walking under the Verranzano Bridge and I got to introduce my friend to French cuisine. Finally trying Ice and Vice was a great way to end another perfect day in New York.

The remains of 10,000 ancient temples and pagodas

Most of our day in Bagan was spent looking at all the old temples & pagodas. It was repetitive, but any time I travel in Asia, my hosts insist that I must see many, many pagodas & temples. There’s always one more we need to see!

By now, it all seems so routine. Try to get a flight around midnight so I don’t have to rush to JFK Airport. Try to get a flight that takes off when I am tired and ready to sleep, because it takes at least 12 hours to get to Asia. Last time, my layover was in Dubai, this time, Taipei.
 
The flight was around 15 hours and it seemed like I slept on and off for 10. I’m so grateful to have an iPad! When I’m awake, I typically switch back and forth between movies, books and music videos. My music video for my 1st flight was Metallica’s Quebec Magnetic. I also watched U2’s From The Sky Down and read Lonely Planet Myanmar.
 
The layover in Taipei was so quick, my Burmese friend and I only had time to get a smoothie before boarding the China Airlines flight to Yangon. I’d never flown China Airlines before, but it wasn’t any better or worse than other airlines I used to get to Asia.
 
The flight to Yangon was less than 5 hours, which seemed like nothing compared to the previous one. I watched God Bless Ozzy Osbourne and PJ20, and spend the rest of the time talking to my Burmese friend. The flight seemed less than 1/4 full which was not totally shocking, since I’d been on Air Asia flights, which were HALF FULL (that’s a Pearl Jam song) at best.
 
After landing, my friend and I had to get in separate immigration lines, this was THE FIRST TIME (that’s a U2 song) that I had to get a Visa before I left my country. I booked the flight on Monday (Memorial Day) night and left just over 72 hours later, which is rare for me. It took less than 24 hours for my Visa to be approved and I made it through their security with the same ease I make it through security everywhere except driving into or out of Canada.
 
We were picked up at the airport by my friend’s family and the first thing we did was went to eat. As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I can feel that Southeast Asia heat! For me, there was only one thing I wanted to try………MOHINGA! I wasn’t disappointed and I looked forward to eating more in the coming days.
After spending a day (and night) in Yangon’s Chinatown, my 2 Burmese hosts & I took an overnight bus to Bagan. Like 5 years earlier in Turkey, the buses were very nice, but unlike Turkey, it was difficult to sleep in the bus because of constant horns honking and potholes. 
 
Most of our day in Bagan was spent looking at all the old temples & pagodas. It was repetitive, but any time I travel in Asia, my hosts insist that I must see many, many pagodas & temples. There’s always one more we need to see!

My 3rd time here & I still LOVE this city!

Since I 1st visited here in 2000, I’ve loved this city.

Since I 1st visited here in 2000, I’ve loved this city. I can’t name any restaurants I like here (like I could in my favorite city of New York), but it’s just a feeling I get when I’m here. I still have not used the Metro and I’m sure I’ll like the city even more when I eventually do. Although none of my 4 favorite bands are from here, plenty of Seattle-based bands have been very important to me over the years. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden & Alice in Chains are the main ones. Over the years, I’ve collected over 100 live Pearl Jam shows. Those are all professional recordings as well.