Music History

Steve Albini looks back on Nirvana’s In Utero album, which turns 25 this year

After shifting the planet’s rock’n’roll axis with Nevermind in 1991, Nirvana released Its follow-up, two years later almost to the day. But what most people forget is that In Utero was originally a disappointment, selling less than 200,000 copies in the US in its first week.

People who were expecting a Nevermind Part 2 were disappointed. The record was harsher and more raw that most were expecting. The mix seemed a bit off. We’d also grown tired of Kurt’s passive-aggressive attitude towards fame, not to mention the constant Kurt-and-Courtney drama.

In Utero is one of those albums that eventually inspired sober second thoughts and multiple re-evaluations over the years. While it’s not up there with Nevermind, it’s considered to be an excellent album on its own.

PSN Europe, a pro audio website, talked to Steve Albini, the guy who was in the studio with the band for that record.

Steve Albini told PSNEurope that “from a technical standpoint, you can’t really get a much better record” than the 2013 reissue of Nirvana’s 1993 masterpiece In Utero, for our latest cover feature on the revered engineer and producer.

Albini, commenting on the band’s third and final album, said: “I had a chance to do a deep dive on that record in 2013 when they did the deluxe reissue, and Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Dave Grohl came here and we opened up all the multi-tracks and did alternate mixes for all the songs on the album. We also did a comprehensive remaster of the original edition of the album from the original half-inch tapes. Everybody was really pleased with how the original session sounded.

“I felt like the band were playing well and everything sounded good. This is a rare thing for me to say, but I have to give their record label credit in that when they decided to do the deluxe reissue they pulled out all the stops for quality. There is a super deluxe edition of the record and from a technical standpoint I don’t know how to make a better record than that. You really cannot get a better, more sympathetic master than going from the original master tapes – direct to metal, very high quality pressings. If anybody is interested hearing what I think is the best representation of that session it’s the original version of the album from that double 12” 45 super deluxe vinyl edition.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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