In Utero, by Nirvana
Suggested by Craig Scott
It’s often said that Nirvana destroyed Heavy Metal.
Even as a metal fan and Nirvana-hater, that’s not strictly fair. What Nirvana did was to showcase a new style of music that was leapt upon by what I’d call the “mainstream alternates”, picking up fans of rock-pop Hair Metal bands such as Poison, Motley Crue and Skid Row. This was essentially the final nail in the coffin for a dwindling scene, especially in America, as the focus turned away from LA excess and to the melancholic rains of Seattle.
As a UK metal-head in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the personal effect that Nirvana had on me was rather minimal, at first. I heard a fresh new song called Smells Like Teen Spirit, which I thought was pretty cool, and I bought the album on the strength of it. Sadly, to me, none of the album tracks lived up to the hype created by the single, so I discarded the band rather quickly. And that, I thought, was that. Except it wasn’t.
Nirvana stuck around. Soon they were everywhere. My favourite alt nightclubs started playing more Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Grunge, and less of the music I loved. People I knew were discarding the backpatches and bullet-belts, donning the skinny jeans and threadbare jumpers. The “cool kids” I didn’t know were pulling on the familiar black band t-shirt and stompy boots combo, co-opting our style with their yellow drugged-up-smiley-face logo, like we were the same when we clearly weren’t.
It was demoralising. I was a South Park Goth Kid, shaking my cigarette-clutching fist at the latest batch of Twilight fans, or Woody, watching in horror as Andy plastered his bedroom with Buzz Lightyear posters.
Now. Change is inevitable. Change is welcomed. But change has a promise of improvement, of replacing something familiar with something better. Despite my railing and ranting at Nirvana’s omnipresence and their aesthetic and their skinniness and their edge and their fire and their apparently unwanted coolness, the plain fact that royally pissed me off was a simple one.
The new sound, the music coming from this electric new talent? It was awful.
This was it? This slacker-fuelled buzzing shrug of a musical style was replacing a form of music I enjoyed? This distorted, distended, navel-gazing chicken-shed rattle-bone hole-poked half-baked flatulent guffaw was kicking my music in the balls are running away? This? This? This sh*t was cool now?
No. No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO.
I hate Nirvana because they levelled a hook at things I love, a hook that connected so fiercely that there’s bone-deep bruising that throbs to this day. I hated Nirvana because, despite what everyone said, they just weren’t very good. And I hate Nirvana because they convinced people that there’s merit in mediocrity, that anyone with an Argos guitar and a three-chord talent could crank out a fart that’d be devoured by the world.
In Utero? Their third studio album. A tricky listen, and a definite departure from their previous two, with the band showing actual contempt for their fanbase. Heart Shaped Box is decent. My standout? All Apologies, partly because once it’s finished the album stops.
Musically, I guess a low 5 out of 10 would be appropriate, but having aired my grievances in the grand tradition, it’s plain that the wounds are fresher than I’d like. Consequently, In Utero gets 3/10.
Nirvana didn’t destroy Heavy Metal. But they didn’t create much of worth either.