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In Utero
In Utero-cover art.jpg
Released September 13, 1993
Studio Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Genre Grunge, noise rock, alternative rock, hardcore punk
Length 41:11
Label DGC
Producer Steve Albini
Album Guide
MTV Unplugged in New York

In Utero is the third and final studio album from the American grunge band Nirvana, excluding Incesticide, which was a compilation album.

History[edit | edit source]

Released in 1993, In Utero was the final studio album Nirvana would release. Following the massive and unexpected commercial success of Nirvana's second album, Nevermind, in 1991, the band had intended to "return to its roots" by recording a more abrasive and less mainstream-sounding release.

Singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain was aware that Nirvana risked alienating its core fanbase of punk and indie rockers with its recent superstardom, and the band chose Steve Albini, a well-respected "recording engineer" (working with the likes of The Pixies, a major influences to Nirvana) and member of the bands Rapeman and Big Black, to record the album. In Utero opened at #1 on the Billboard 200, and had hit singles with the songs "Heart-Shaped Box", "Rape Me", and "All Apologies", but also showcased the band's more corrosive and experimental side with tracks like "Scentless Apprentice", "tourette's" and "Milk It", keeping its punk credibility intact. The song "Sappy" was originally planned to be the twelfth track on the album, in between "tourette's" and "All Apologies", but Cobain instead donated the song to the AIDS charity album No Alternative. In Utero was possibly the most anticipated album of the decade.

Controversy[edit | edit source]

Even before In Utero's release, the album was surrounded by turmoil. A number of articles emerged in early 1993 which suggested that DGC Records, the band's record label, disliked the album and was reluctant to release it. When three songs were later remixed ("All Apologies," "Pennyroyal Tea," and "Heart-Shaped Box") many cited this as proof of Nirvana yielding to the label. Geffen responded with a press release in which Cobain said, "There has been no pressure from our record label to change the tracks we did with Albini. We have 100 percent control of our music."

When In Utero did hit the shelves, many objected to the song "Rape Me," which Cobain defended in several interviews as being "anti-rape." Wal-Mart and Kmart refused to carry the album because of its artwork, and a "clean" version was released for them which featured an altered version of the back cover collage - "zoomed in" to omit the fetuses - and listed "Rape Me" as "Waif Me", though the lyrics of the song remained unchanged. The band defended its decision to release a censored version by pointing out that many fans in places like the Midwestern United States may not live near record shops, and buy most of their albums from chain stores like Wal-Mart.

Pressings/Re-Releases[edit | edit source]

The first vinyl pressing of In Utero came on clear vinyl. There were 15,000 of these records pressed. In Utero was reissued by British label Simply Vinyl, and as a gold CD by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. In 1999, In Utero was re-released in a collectors boxset along with the 1991 album Nevermind. In 2003, the original Albini mix of In Utero was issued as a vinyl-only release in the UK. In 2004, the album was re-released in Europe in a collectors boxset with the 1992 album Incesticide. In 2013, there was a 20-anniversary edition of In Utero. This anniversary edition included all songs remixed and b-sides. A deluxe edition was also released the same year, containing previously mentioned and the normal un-mixed songs and a lot of extras.

Recording[edit | edit source]

In Utero was recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It was recorded for a total of $24,000, and Albini took a flat rate of just $100,000, turning down royalty payments which would have given him far more. Recording sessions started on February 14, 1993, and were completed in about one week (including the basic tracks and overdubs), after which Albini spent a few days mixing the songs. In total, the band used 12 of the 14 days they had booked for the studio; Cobain later described it in Michael Azerrad's Nirvana biography Come As You Are as "the easiest recording [Nirvana had] ever done." Three songs, "Heart-Shaped Box", "Pennyroyal Tea", and "All Apologies", were later remixed by Scott Litt, which caused friction between the band and Albini.

Medical themes[edit | edit source]

Cobain had flirted with medical themes in the past, such as in the Nevermind song "Drain You" and in some of his paintings and collages, but never to the extent as on In Utero - the title itself is a Latin term meaning, literally, "in the uterus." The lyrics contain mentions of or references to semen, hymens, open sores, parasites, milk, and even abortion, and the album's artwork includes a photo of a pregnant anatomical angel on the front cover (with angel wings later added by a freelance artist), a collage of flowers, plastic fetuses and turtle shells on the back cover, and various Greek symbols of fertility on the back cover and sprinkled throughout the liner notes.

Singles[edit | edit source]

"Heart-Shaped Box" was released as In Utero's first single in August 1993, and features "Milk It" (CD only) and "Marigold" as B-sides. The second single was a split for the songs "All Apologies" and "Rape Me" (both A-sides), and was released in December 1993 with"moist dog" as the B-side. A third single, for the song "Pennyroyal Tea" and featuring " I Hate Myself and Want To Die" and the band's MTV Unplugged rendition of the blues song "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" as B-sides, was planned for a May 1994 release, but was cancelled following Cobain's death in April 1994. A few copies were released prematurely, and today can fetch a hefty sum from collectors. Though never released as a single, the song "Dumb" was picked up by many alternative rock radio stations, and became a modest hit.

Track listing[edit | edit source]

All songs by Kurt Cobain unless otherwise noted.

  1. "Serve the Servants" – 3:34 – Lyrics
  2. "Scentless Apprentice" (Cobain/Grohl/Novoselic) – 3:47 – Lyrics
  3. "Heart-Shaped Box" – 4:39 – Lyrics
  4. "Rape Me" – 2:49 – Lyrics
  5. "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle" – 4:07 – Lyrics
  6. "Dumb" – 2:29 – Lyrics
  7. "Very Ape" – 1:55 – Lyrics
  8. "Milk It" – 3:52 – Lyrics
  9. "Pennyroyal Tea" – 3:36 – Lyrics
  10. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" – 4:49 – Lyrics
  11. "tourette's" – 1:33 – Lyrics
  12. "All Apologies" – 3:50 – Lyrics
  13. "Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip" (Cobain/Grohl/Novoselic) – 7:33 – Lyrics (This "devalued American dollar purchase incentive track" is available on European and Australian copies of In Utero, as well as various other non-U.S. pressings. It is a jam recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in January 1993, and does not get a separate track position on the disc, starting about 20 minutes after the end of "All Apologies").

Personnel[edit | edit source]

Miscellanea/Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • At least four In Utero songs - "Dumb", "Pennyroyal Tea", "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter", and "All Apologies" - were written in 1990, three years before the album's release. "Rape Me" was written in 1991.
  • Early titles for In Utero included "Verse Chorus Verse" and "I Hate Myself And I Want to Die" (the latter was abandoned when the band became concerned that fans might not understand it was a joke). The final title was taken from a poem by Courtney Love, Cobain's wife and singer/guitarist of the band Hole.
  • Cobain wrote a set of liner notes for In Utero which was not used at the time, but made public in 2002 with the publication of Journals. In his notes for the "odds and sods" compilation Incesticide, he had famously attacked the homophobic, racist and sexist faction of his fanbase, which he wanted to eliminate. The unused In Utero notes were less confrontational, dealing mostly with the songs themselves. For the "Serve The Servants" entry, he wrote about the fractured relationship he had with his father, a theme addressed very clearly in the song itself. For the "Pennyroyal Tea" entry, he wrote, "It doesn't work you hippie," referring to the abortifacient after which the song is named.
  • In Utero was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1994, but lost to U2's Zooropa. Nirvana won the same award two years later with its posthumous MTV Unplugged In New York album.
  • Kera Schaley, the cellist who plays on "Dumb" and "All Apologies", has also appeared on albums by Azure Ray, Vic Chesnut, and Low. She sings and plays cello for her own band, Martyr & Pistol.
  • In a 1993 interview with a French magazine, Kurt Cobain said that that King Crimson's Red had influenced In Utero, particularly the distortion sounds and recording dynamics that were finally used.

Album charts[edit | edit source]

Year Album Chart Position
1993 In Utero Billboard Top 200 No. 1
1993 In Utero Official UK Albums Chart No. 1
1993 In Utero Official Sweden Albums Chart No. 1
1993 In Utero Official Australian Albums Chart No. 2
1993 In Utero Official New Zealand Albums Chart No. 3
1993 In Utero Official Portugal Album Charts No. 4
1993 In Utero Official Finland Albums Chart No. 5
1993 In Utero Official Norwegian Albums Chart No. 7
1993 In Utero Official Austrian Albums Chart No. 8
1993 In Utero Official Holland Albums Chart No. 10
1993 In Utero Official Spanish Albums Chart No. 13
1993 In Utero Official Japanese Albums Chart No. 13
1993 In Utero Official German Albums Chart No. 14
1993 In Utero Official Switzerland Albums Chart No. 16
1993 In Utero Official Hungarian Albums Chart No. 40

Charting Singles[edit | edit source]

Year Single Chart Position
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official UK Singles Chart No. 5
1993 All Apologies/Rape Me Official UK Singles Chart No. 32
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Irish Singles Chart No. 6
1993 All Apologies/Rape Me Official Irish Singles Chart No. 20
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official New Zealand Singles Chart No. 9
1993 All Apologies/Rape Me Official New Zealand Singles Chart No. 20
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Australian Singles Chart No. 17
1993 All Apologies/Rape Me Official Australian Singles Chart No. 58
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official French Singles Chart No. 37
1993 All Apologies/Rape Me Official French Singles Chart No. 20
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Finland Singles Chart No. 14
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Sweden Singles Chart No. 16
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Belgium Singles Chart No. 31
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Official Holland Singles Chart No. 32
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Modern Rock Tracks (U.S.) No. 1
1994 All Apologies Modern Rock Tracks (U.S.) No. 1
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.) No. 4
1994 All Apologies Mainstream Rock Tracks (U.S.) No. 4
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Hawaiian Island Charts No. 3
1993 Rape Me Hawaiian Island Charts No. 3
1993 All Apologies Hawaiian Island Charts No. 1
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Australian Alternative Music Chart No. 1
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Triple J Hottest 100 No. 20
1994 All Apologies/Rape Me Hot 100 Brasil No. 94
1993 Heart-Shaped Box French Airplay Charts No. 52
1993 All Apologies French Airplay Charts No. 21
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Polish Airplay Charts No. 13
1993 All Apologies Polish Airplay Charts No. 2
1993 Heart-Shaped Box Slovakian Airplay Charts No. 4
1994 Rape Me Slovakian Airplay Charts No. 16
1994 All Apologies Latvian Airplay Charts No. 3
1994 Rape Me Latvian Airplay Charts No. 12
1994 Pennyroyal Tea Latvian Airplay Charts No. 20

Accolades[edit | edit source]

  • Ranked #3 in Spin Magazine's "Best Albums of 1993" (1993)
  • Ranked #3 in Rolling Stone's "Album of the Year - Critics Pick" (1993)
  • Ranked #5 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top Albums of the Year" (1993)
  • Ranked #13 in Mojo magazine's "Top 100 Albums of 1993" (1993)
  • Ranked #1 in Kerrang!'s "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die - Editors Choice" (1998)
  • Ranked #2 in Kerrang!'s "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die - Readers Choice" (1998)
  • Ranked #20 in Q's "Best 50 Albums of Q's Lifetime" (1999)
  • Ranked #13 in Spin's "50 Most Essential Punk Records" (1999)
  • Ranked #18 in Spin's "90 Greatest Albums of the 90s" (1999)
  • Ranked #2 in Magnet's "Top 60 Albums, 1993-2003" (2003)
  • Ranked #439 in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (2003)
  • Ranked #13 in Pitchfork's "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s" (2003) [1]
  • Ranked #22 in Q's "Best 100 Albums Ever" (2006)

Sales[edit | edit source]

  • American sales: 1995; 5 million (5x Platinum)
  • UK sales: 100,000 (Gold)
  • Canadian sales: 600,000 (6x Platinum)
  • Japanese sales: 7 weeks, 85,570 (22 September 1993) & 1 week, 749 (21 October 2004)
  • New Zealand: 1993, Platinum.
  • Uncertain Hot Christ: 77,000

References[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

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