[sic] Magazine

Nirvana – In Utero (reissue)

20 years already? The Nirvana revenue machine rolls on, this time with a ridiculously overweight reimagining of the final, tortured studio record. It can’t be much longer until they issue an official bootleg box set, but, who knows? Maybe this really is, as one of the Outcesticide bootleg CD’s said, ‘the final rape of the vaults’.

It is still everything the album was when it came out – a sullen reproach of Nevermind , and a perversely competent, angry rock record; at a 20 year remove, you can disentangle from the darker edges of the time, the identikit Nirvana-lite clones that became suddenly, inexplicably famous, and the kneejerk reaction of the band to make something other than Nevermind II: Grunge Boogaloo, and hear a solid, well-produced, and damn powerful record. The biggest regret of this record is that Cobain was clearly talented, and had a lot more to say that was cut short abruptly.

Of the extra material, of which there is legion, there is the always-puerile ‘MV’, the Grohl-sung ‘Marigold’, and ‘Sappy’ and ‘I Hate Myself And I Want To Die’ – the latter two are excellent songs that suffered simply by being scattered onto various artist compilations.

CD1 is a remastered version of the album, the ‘hidden’ track, and three alternate mixes from 1993-94, and new 2013 mixes of the four extra songs: CD2 repeats the whole album in a barely different 2013 mix, and 11 demos (many instrumental). In total there are four versions of ‘Penny Royaltea’ and ‘All Apologies’. Neither a bad song, nor worth four versions, only the most hardened will notice the differences between the original CD mix, the Steve Albini vinyl mix, and the 2013 remix. The ‘2013 Mix’ version of the album seems to be barely different from the original 1993 mix: a little louder and clearer, perhaps, but in every other way, identical that memory can tell. Pointless, then.

CD3 contains the whole of the previously unreleased full 1993 MTV show, remastered in blistering quality, and with 7 unheard performances. This is also on a DVD alongside several TV performances of the same era, and the video for ‘Heart Shaped Box’. All of it is packaged inside a sumptuous, one might even say, obscenely overwrought box – which isn’t even heart shaped! In all, this is something like five hours of Nirvana overload with a weighty book and reverently printed tome. Perhaps being there was no replacement for the cold warmth of nostalgia, of experience-by-proxy, but it wasn’t all that at the time, nor was seeing a dispassionate Cobain unhappily trudge through a tour, give near-desolate interviews, and/or the frantic and difficult week-by-week updates in the inky pages of the paper, which simply were difficult to watch, powerless, at a remove. But the sheen of shrink-wrapped repackaged nostalgia, the huge attendant package this has, cannot do anything but cheapen slightly the legacy; you could quip over my dead body but that is frankly, exactly what is happening. It is an exhaustive release, but one that perhaps, if you can overlook the excess and gloss, and bury into the music, rewards itself. However, it seems bizarre to ask – why isn’t there a basic 2CD version that doesn’t cost £80? Oh well. The money will roll right in.

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word