The shrieks of the guitar and the explosion of drums, the album has started to play and its NIRVANA but like you've never heard them before. The song falls into a rhythm and melody that has become Kurt Cobain's signature for structuring songs, simple chords and elusive lyrics to sing over them. His voice not the usual hard, thick vocals, but more of a subtle if not reluctant singing comes from him instead. This track is "Serve the Servants" and it is the best album opener Nirvana could have hoped for. It sums up the album pretty well, the raw sound, Cobain's memorising voice drawing you in, the hard hitting drums, the heavy bass and the screeching guitars, all creating a perfect and memorable melody.
So is this album a worthy follow up to Nevermind? This question is certainly on the minds of every critic and fan of Nirvana, and the answer is certainly yes. And for many reasons why. First of, it's totally different to Nevermind. Nirvana hasn't tried to create Nevermind version 2 here, with heavy pop songs and punk flavoured hits. They've moved on. It's more original, it feels like this is what Nirvana was meant to achieve. Second of all, it's still got totally catchy songs. Nothing like Nevermind's hits, but it still has the soft to hard melody's, like in `Heart Shaped Box', or the fast and energetic songs like in `Very Ape' or `Scentless Apprentice', or songs that just want to make you sing along like in `Pennyroyal Tea' or strangely enough, `Rape Me'.
With that last song's name in mind, it's clear what Kurt Cobain has also tried to achieve in this album as well as creating a more punk credible and original sound. Controversy. This album is full of it. Cobain is clearly on a mission to sort out his fans from the punk kids between the wannabes. He's tried to make this album as unpop as possible and having a song called `Rape Me' is just one of his tools. He also try's his hand at several other things, such as over the top feedback in `Radio Friendly Unit Shifter' or using a few lyrics that mean little to him like in `Scentless Apprentice' or `Milk It'. While he does use these techniques, his pop side, much to the relief of fans and critics, does come through and that's what makes this album great. It's a hard rock album with a tiny pop twist and a large sprinkle of punk.
While we are talking about how Kurt Cobain has achieved his mission on this album, we mustn't forget the other members of the band. Dave Grohl's drumming is harder than ever and it still gives the much needed power to Nirvana's songs. He even wrote the guitar riff to `Scentless Apprentice', a Nirvana first that Kurt Cobain isn't the sole song writer. Krist Novoselic's bass is still heavy and full of melody, but follows Cobain's trend of being less pop. The disappointing part is that it's a little hard to hear the bass at times, maybe this is due to the producer (or sound engineer as he likes to be called) Steve Albini. Working with Steve Albini is a strange choice for Nirvana, he never usually works with big bands, but then this makes it perfect for Cobain's quest of becoming more of a punk icon rather than a pop icon or the worst of all, a rock star.
While the album will be hard to listen to for some people, it will begin to grow on you. Its best songs include `Serve the Servants', `Heart Shaped Box' and `All Apologies' These songs all have the Nirvana structure that makes their songs on a higher level than any other bands around today. So the album's lowlights? Well `Very Ape' and `Tourette's' aren't particularly good, but the songs are played at such a fast pace, its hard not to love them.
Overall In Utero is a hard rock album, through and through. It has some great hard hitting tracks and some great melodies. It begs the question, should Nirvana really be classed as being punk or grunge? Because all I hear is pure raw rock, and this is their definitive sound.