Wondered how everyone was feeling about their Nirvana In Utero deluxe and super-deluxe editions now there’s been time for it to soak in?
In the run-up I was pretty contented – some material I’d never heard, a potentially intriguing remix job, the Litt/Albini originals of a few pieces, the one surprise instrumental from a rehearsal, the bonus footage pieces. I’m very much on the glass half-full side of things, especially given I know it was feeding a hole that can never be filled meaning that anything that emerges was, and is, welcomed and appreciated.
At this point…Well, I’d still rate myself satisfied – the remastering was perfectly decent and I see no great reasons for anyone to complain about the slight ‘pumping up’ of the original album, the remix had a few points of intrigue, the bonuses made sense and Live and Loud is still a quality performance – love the long outro…More of this kinda chaos please!
But. On the other hand, I admit the randomness of including certain instrumentals and not others, of including certain early takes and not others…That definitely grates on me. When all the additional material is filler for fanatics hearing that someone somewhere has decided that certain material is ‘even more filler than other filler’ and that I’d definitely not want to hear it…It’s just irksome. I’m trying my best to think of it as the equivalent of the hierarchy of eBay, then second hand and charity shops, then finally bric-a-brac stores and carboot sales – that there are differing levels among pieces someone gets rid of but still…Unless an outtake is unavailable or genuinely wrecked I’ve no idea why one outtake should be deemed of any greater value than another.
Also, the 2013 remix did disappoint – I was hoping to hear far more wrenching changes to a greater number of songs. Instead, a few peaks do stand out but too few to fundamentally alter my listening experience or to distinguish the remix greatly from the original album. I’ve tried it with headphones, I’ve tried it with the original album playing alongside…Ultimately I think one problem may be that an exercise like this being in the hands of music producers/engineers fails to recognise the difference between the aural depth heard by those experts versus what might be distinguishable to an untrained individual who can’t isolate the audio tracks and doesn’t have such sensitive hearing. I was hoping for more. I’d have been more than happy, as an experiment, to hear them drop out backing, chop vocals, restructure songs…Isn’t it funny? I’m happy to consider sacrilege so long as it made for something fresh!
Ultimately there’s a touch of realisation to the whole experience, for me. The reason that there are not many deep cuts or intriguing diversions on the release is simply because that absence is a realistic portrait of what was going on in terms of Nirvana in the 1992-1993 period. Nirvana entered the studio in October 1992 and did barely one day’s work, they managed at most two days playing together as a band in January 1993, then in February they hammered out the album and all additional takes and so forth in, at most, a single week. This wasn’t a band taking time to evolve, develop or experiment with their songs – they were walking in, hammering out takes, then heading home where Cobain might work on something to order the band to do next time they got together. The compilers of the In Utero twentieth anniversary releases had the unenviable task of fleshing out a mildly depressing period of time for Nirvana and I feel they did so subtly (for example, the pieces in the Super-Deluxe book that emphasise the business and product aspects of an album) and accurately (in terms of the overall paucity of revelations or substantially different material.)
It does make me wonder though, whether Courtney Love has plans for the remaining tapes of Cobain demos given there have now been several occasions between 2009 and 2013 for further use to be made of whatever remains in that archive. On the one hand it makes me think that the rift opened way back in the early 2000s has never even reached the point at which she’s involved in any of the anniversary releases. On the other, it still lends me hope that there’s more to be made of material from her side of things – material that isn’t sitting with the label, or with Krist and Dave, or in the bands of Nirvana’s various producers.
That’s what I feel fans really have to look forward to; more Cobain material, a lot less Nirvana releases of real note.