Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This morning I listened to...

Placido Domingo, Maria Callas, McCoy Tyner, Howard Stern, but ultimately Nirvana's In Utero. I was reminded how great an album that is; I remember that after it's release in 1993 I felt it was a better album than Nevermind, and I have to say I still do today. But there's a weird phenomenon with that. If asked to name the 10 best albums of all time, Nevermind would clearly make my list, yet In Utero wouldn't. Yet if asked to rank the Nirvana albums, I'd put In Utero on top, over Nevermind. I think it's a better, bold artistic statement, yet lacks the cultural impact that makes Nevermind a more universally important work. If that makes any sense.

I remember that at the time of its release, In Utero got overshadowed by press stories about Kurt's fights with Geffen, the record label, over the rougher-edged songs like Milk It and Very Ape. It was vastly outsold by Pearl Jam's simultaneous sophomore release Vs., somewhat eclipsed by Nirvana's own MTV Unplugged performance and even further overshadowed by Kurt's suicide only 6 months after it's release. But its worth noting that while Kurt wrote Nevermind when nobody knew who he was, In Utero was the only album he wrote as a superstar, "voice of a generation," husband, father and publicly-documented drug addict. As such, his decision not to take the safe route, but to include songs that made his record company cringe and drop Nirvana clearly a notch below Pearl Jam in popularity, is all the more noteworthy. He could have easily made another Nevermind; he didn't, but in my mind made something -- amazingly as it sounds -- even better.

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