photo & text by nacrowe
up until my family moved to NIGERIA when i was 12, we basically never went on trips. the two exceptions to that was a basketball camp i went to in ARIZONA and a memorable road trip to SAN FRANCISCO that included stays in MONTERREY, SOLVANG and SAN SIMEON. its funny because since our big move in 1996, ive now been to somewhere north of 60 countries in the past 25 years. which i admit is insane. but that trip north was a pretty big deal for me.
it was also the trip i got NIRVANA's last record IN UTERO (DGC, 1991) along with its predecessor NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) at the former TOWER RECORDS in near FISHERMAN's WHARF on columbus avenue and bay street in SAN FRANCISCO. years later after graduating high school i got TRICKY's MAXINQUAYE (FOURTH AND BROADWAY, 1995) at that same store.
anyway, like most fans of INDIE ROCK, PUNK ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK, for me NIRVANA was an important band. by the time i got the STEVE ALBINI recorded / produced IN UTERO, frontman KURT COBAIN had been deceased for a few months. what struck me about the record at the time was how raw it was compared to NEVERMIND, which stunned me. COBAIN is obviously celebrated for his preternatural sense of melody and opaque lyrics, but as a 12 year old that was beyond me at that point. really i fed off the aggression and sense of pain in his voice. specifically i am referring to songs like "TOURETTE'S", "RADIO FRIENDLY UNIT SHIFTER," "VERY APE," "SCENTLESS APPRENTICE" and especially "RAPE ME." to me that is the real power of NIRVANA in general. just that vibe of being dissatisfied with the world / yourself. in essence IN UTERO has been the soundtrack to me youth, from moving to AFRICA and visiting places like SPAIN, GHANA, ITALY and COTE D'IVOIRE. i hear the songs and i am snapped back to those trips with my family. alienation is a universal experience, but being a THIRD CULTURE KID really puts that sense of disconnect in perspective. at some point you come to feel comfortable in unfamiliar settings.
in some ways that is how i look at IN UTERO as an adult. COBAIN at that point in his life was at a point of great transition in his life, becoming a father, a generational icon and a hardcore drug addict. all that is reflected in his lyrics which i would argue the most poetic and meaningful of his career, due undoubtedly to the influence of his criminally underrated wife COURTNEY LOVE. dont believe me? read her lyrics from HOLE albums of the period and tell me they are not superior. i think it is beyond doubt that her influence, for good or ill, is indelibly reflected throughout IN UTERO. songs dealing with themes of childbirth, death and reproduction as well as the guilt, shame and lack of control associated with emotional dependence and drug addiction. i cant even begin to imagine the disorientation associated with becoming a media sensation in your mid-20s, especially given his isolated biography and inward artistic leanings. then again he feverishly chased that attention so at the very least the dude was a deeply conflicted and endlessly fascinating figure. with IN UTERO you are given a sense of his mindset post-fame with songs like "DUMB," "PENNYROYAL TEA," "HEART-SHAPED BOX" and "ALL APOLOGIES" being both intimate as well as caustically sardonic and self-lacerating. it really is quite the achievement.
this is one of those records that i feel strongly shaped my identity, worldview and even sense of masculinity from a pretty early age. because of that it is difficult for me to separate it from my own lived experience. it is easily one of my favorite records from the period, only SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1993), TOOL's ÆNIMA (ZOO, 1996), RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (EPIC, 1992) and ALICE IN CHAINS' DIRT (COLUMBIA, 1992) are in the same ballpark in my opinion. culturally IN UTERO and NIRVANA in general represent the last impactful movement in ROCK AND ROLL.
its been 30 years and we're still waiting for someone to match it. still. waiting.