Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, The Grunge Rock Guru has returned! I have many, many new albums and music experiences, so I will have plenty to write about for a long time. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
20 years ago (where does the time go??) Nirvana released their follow-up to the seminal “Nevermind” and it was titled “In Utero“. The album was released with a lot of fanfare as it was the first truly new music from Nirvana since the unexpected success of “Nevermind” and fans were clamoring for more. They tried to hold people over with a mix of B-Sides and other unreleased tracks in a pseudo-compilation album called “Incesticide”, but it didn’t work out like they hoped. Were early hit singles like “Heart-Shaped Box”, “Dumb”, and “Rape Me,” the album was poised for success, and it was – both commercially and critically. That was 1993.
Now, in 2013, DGC released the 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition. There were a few deluxe editions (the two CD version and the three LP version), but I went all out and got the three CD/DVD super deluxe versions, so I will focus on that one. The $150 price tag was a little steep, but I was really impressed with what they did with the super deluxe version of “Nevermind”, so there was little hesitation to pull the trigger. I was not disappointed.
It came with three CDs that had over 70 unreleased tracks, a DVD of the 1993 “MTV Live and Loud” concert (that I do not think has aired since the days right after Kurt died), a two-sided poster, and a 50+ page book. That was the first thing that I gravitated towards. The book started off with a four page fax (ask your parents) from “In Utero” producer Steve Albini. It really lays out his vision for the album and gives the reader insight to why the album sounds the way it does. In today’s sea of over-produced records that hardly sound anything like what was actually recorded, this Albini quote from 1992 is still a breath of fresh air:
If a record takes more than a week to make, someone’s [expletive deleted] up.
The CDs it came with were great. CD 1 was simply the original album remastered (this was not counted towards the number of unreleased tracks) with 7 extra tracks, including some original Albini mixes for some popular songs. The remastering didn’t add much to the album, and it’s skippable if you are familiar with the original (and who wouldn’t be that has this set?). The Bonus tracks, however, are awesome. The Albini mixes of “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” are as raw as can be. It matched Albini’s philosophy and his recording technique. CD 2 was interesting because it was a brand new mix of the original album. The mix was OK, but it took out things I have been used to hearing for 20 years. They took out things like Kurt clearing his throat before “Pennyroyal Tea” and the cello out of “Dumb.” I can live without the throat clearing, but I was dumfounded as to why they took out the cello. It’s such an integral part of the song. The demos that were on this disc were also pretty cool because they included instrumental versions of songs like “Dumb” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.”
The third CD was the soundboard audio from the “Live and Loud” concert. I was thrilled it was included because it is one of my favorite concerts of all time and it finally got a proper release. the CD had he entire televised concert as well as songs that were not included on the original telecast. The DVD of the “Live and Loud” concert was just awesome. It included all the songs that were on the CD, but added two versions of the famous “Heart-Shaped Box” video, and live performances from Italy, France, and a few songs what ended up being their last ever performance in Germany.
The celebration of “In Utero” is bittersweet in a way. On one hand, we get to celebrate a band who broke through the mainstream on their terms and changed the face music and pop culture. On the other hand, it is really the last flash of brilliance we got from a very talented song writer as well as a true end of an era, however short it was.