Monday, October 07, 2013

Juicy J/In Utero

I reviewed Juicy J's Stay Trippy last week on RapReviews. It's sexist and mindless but fun. Sort of the hip-hop equivalent of Motley Crue.

It has also been twenty years since Nirvana's In Utero came out. That album was the first album I ever bought the day it came out, and was the soundtrack for my first year of college. Like all Nirvana records, In Utero has its share of issues. Bleach wallows too much in tuneless Melvins worship. Nevermind is overproduced and oversaturated. Incesticide has its share of B-sides that rightly never made it onto an album. And In Utero is a little too obsessed with how icky fame is. (Is there anything more boring than listening to a successful artist bitch about being famous? That's why I've avoided all of Drake and Kanye's output.) What all Nirvana also have in common was that they were an incredible band who managed to channel Kurt Cobain's suicidal depression into incredibly powerful music.

Revisiting In Utero has reminded me of just how good it is. Not all of it, mind you. I think "Heart Shaped Box" is one of their worst songs, "Rape Me" is embarrassing to listen to, and it is a little too self-conciously abrasive and uncommercial. But it is still an incredible album. If you want pure energy, you have the noisy stomp of "Scentless Apprentice" or the rage-ahol of "Tourette's." If you want their more sensitive side, you have "Dumb," "Pennyroyal Tea," and "All Apologies." My favorite song is "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle," which masters Nirvana's loud-quiet-loud formula, and has the crushing chorus "I miss the comfort of being sad." Nirvana songs never make a lot of sense, but Kurt was great at producing memorable one-liners. "I think I'm dumb/or maybe just happy," "What is wrong with me?," "I'm so tired I can't sleep," and my favorite, "If you ever need anything please don't/Hesitate to ask someone else first/I'm too busy acting like I'm not naive/I've seen it all I was here first." That last line, from "Very Ape," encapsulated the indie rock holier than thou attitude of 1993.

One song that I had totally forgotten about in the fifteen years or so since I listened to In Utero is "Milk It." It's another heavy Melvins-type track, full of grinding guitars and not much melody. Kurt sings in an agonized wail, and the lyrics sound straight out of Naked Lunch. It's an incredibly weird and dark song for the one of the biggest bands in the world to have made. The shitty band I was in in college used to play it at practice.

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