In Utero 20th Anniversary Edition (Universal)
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Sept. 20, 2013
NirvanaIn Utero 20th Anniversary Edition (Universal)
Aiming to restore its credibility after the atomic overexposure of Nevermind, Nirvana solicited Steve Albini to record a follow-up. The post-punk icon accepted, but penned a letter warning of "front office bulletheads" who would "yank the chain at some point, hassling you to rework song/sequences/production, calling-in hired guns to 'sweeten' your record, turning the whole thing over to some remix jockey." Of course he was right. Suits objected to initial In Utero mixes and Kurt Cobain relented by allowing R.E.M. producer Scott Litt to remix the singles. Despite that, the Seattle punk trio's third LP emerged a roaring swan song, coursing with deafening angst while highlighted by tender moments of self-realization. This obligatory 20th anniversary box, three CDs and a DVD, includes the classic album, complete with Litt's vocally inflated edits of "Heart Shaped Box" and "All Apologies," as well as Albini's original, notably rawer mixes of those songs. Also provided, a 2013 mix of the LP, reportedly overseen by Albini and surviving group members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear, and boasting an alternate guitar solo on "Serve the Servants" and a different cello overdub on "Dumb," but otherwise it's indistinct. The bonus material gets worse: ubiquitous B-sides ("I Hate Myself and Want to Die"), boring instrumental demos, and a "Forgotten Tune" that simply sucks. The CD/DVD combo of a hometown 1993 concert – just months before Cobain's suicide the following April – can't compare to three gripping live releases previously. The liner notes, complete with Albini's four-page letter, unseen band photos, and Bobcat Goldthwait's essay about how funny Cobain was, remain the most interesting component of this overstuffed box. For those cashing in, as In Utero's first lyric proclaims, "Teenage angst has paid off well."