Follow TV Tropes


Music / In Utero

Go To
Hey! Wait! I got a new complaint
Forever in debt to your priceless advice
What else should I be? All apologies
What else could I say? Everyone is gay
What else could I write? I don't have the right
What else should I be? All apologies
"All Apologies"

In Utero is the third and final studio album recorded by American Alternative Rock band Nirvana. It was released through DGC Records on September 13, 1993, seven months before the death of frontman Kurt Cobain.

It was the long-anticipated official follow-up to Nevermind, the album that launched the band into the pop culture stratosphere. In many ways, it was a desperate attempt on their behalf to return back to their abrasive roots after hitting it so big, encompassing a greater range of sounds and tones. In fact, their goal was to alienate the mainstream fans that they had inadvertently pulled into the grunge movement, such that they were convinced the album wouldn't sell a quarter of what Nevermind did.

It didn't really turn out the way they expected.

Though some were annoyed — and some reviewers even picked up on Cobain's efforts to resist his band going mainstream — contemporary reviews for In Utero were largely positive. Even with DGC's low-key promotional tactics (for one, not commercially releasing any of the album's singles in America), the album was another instant best-seller; it hit #1 again on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and the Official Charts Company album chart in the United Kingdom, and went five-times Platinum in the US, and double-Platinum in the UK.

Three songs were released to support the album: "Heart-Shaped Box", "All Apologies", and "Pennyroyal Tea". In addition, the controversial double A-side for "All Apologies", "Rape Me", would see significant radio airplay.

After Cobain was found dead on April 8, 1994, largely presumed the result of a suicide three days earlier, touring for In Utero was cancelled alongside the American release of "Pennyroyal Tea", which only saw a German release and a UK promo handout before the recall.note  The band would ultimately dissolve in the wake of Cobain's death, with drummer Dave Grohl forming Foo Fighters later that year to work out his grief. As a thin silver lining, the news of his death did contribute to a 122% increase in the album's sales several days after.

The album was reissued in 2013 for its 20th anniversary in the form of Deluxe and Super Deluxe Editions. Likely due to the widely-panned remaster of Nevermind's similar reissue in 2011, it was not remastered or given any extra tracks.

A 30th-anniversary edition of the album, coming in standard Deluxe editions plus Super Deluxe box sets, was released on October 27, 2023.


  1. "Serve the Servants" (3:36)
  2. "Scentless Apprentice" (3:48)
  3. "Heart-Shaped Box" (4:41)
  4. "Rape Me" (2:50)
  5. "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" (4:09)
  6. "Dumb" (2:32)
  7. "Very Ape" (1:56)
  8. "Milk It" (3:55)
  9. "Pennyroyal Tea" (3:37)
  10. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" (4:51)
  11. "tourette's" (1:35)
  12. "All Apologies" (3:51)
  13. "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip"note  (7:28)

Bonus Tracks (2013 Reissue):

  1. "Marigold" (2:34)
  2. "Moist Vagina" (3:33)
  3. "Sappy" (3:25)
  4. "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" (2:59)
  5. "Pennyroyal Tea (Alternate Mix)"note  (3:35)
  6. "Heart-Shaped Box (Alternate Mix)"note  (4:41)
  7. "All Apologies (Alternate Mix)"note  (3:53)

Principal Members:

  • Kurt Cobain - lead vocals, guitar
  • Dave Grohl - drums, guitar, backing and lead vocals
  • Krist Novoselic - bass

Trope me, trope me my friend:

  • Accentuate the Negative: It's a Nirvana album. What did you expect them to talk about, your priceless advice?
  • Alternative Rock: Nirvana tried to shred off all the mainstream rock fans who bought Nevermind by returning to a more underground and less mainstream appealing sound. The sound, the lyrics and the album art all have Nightmare Fuel imagery.
  • Alliterative Title: "Serve the Servants".
  • all lowercase letters: "tourette's"
  • Artistic License – History: "Serve the Servants" incorrectly describes the trial by water for witches ("If she floats then she is not a witch like we thought"). A "witch" who floated was seen as evidence of guilt; people believed that the water refused to accept a guilty party.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: The album art references childbirth by showing the inside of a female body and imagery of fetuses. The lyrics also reference it often:
    • "Heart-Shaped Box"
      Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back
    • "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter"
      And then all of a sudden my water broke
    • A more subtle one is "Pennyroyal Tea" which refers to the herb pennyroyal, often used to provide home made abortions, though Kurt Cobain once said that it doesn't work.
    • "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip"
      She's only five months late/even though we haven't had sex for a week
    • The image on the double single of "Rape Me" and "All Apologies" shows a seahorse, an animal species known for the fact that the male gets pregnant and gives birth.
  • Bowdlerise: "Rape Me" was changed to "Waif Me" on some album releases, though the actual audio remained unchanged. The rear album artwork was also altered to remove the fetuses on the censored version. Cobain reluctantly agreed to these changes because of objections by retailers like K Mart and Walmart. In some small towns, like where he grew up, these were the only places to buy records.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Teenage angst has paid off well/now I'm bored and old" in "Serve the Servants".
  • Broken Pedestal: Kurt Cobain was a fan of Steve Albini, but was dissatisfied with his thin mixes, so he opted to have R.E.M. producer Scott Litt remix several tracks.
  • Broken Record:
    • "Serve the servants, oh no" in "Serve the Servants".
    • "Go awayyyyyyyyy!" in "Scentless Apprentice".
    • "Your advice" in "Heart-Shaped Box".
    • "I'm not the only one" and "Rape me" in "Rape Me".
    • "I think I'm dumb" in "Dumb".
    • "What is wrong with me?" in "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter".
    • "All in all is all we are" in "All Apologies".
  • Burn the Witch!: "Serve the Servants"
    If she floats then she is not a witch like we thought
  • Calling the Old Man Out: "Serve the Servants":
    I tried hard to have a father, but instead I had a dad
    I just want you to know that I don't hate you any-more
    There is nothing I could say that I haven't thought before.
  • Careful with That Axe: Kurt screaming in "Scentless Apprentice" and "tourette's".
  • Censored Title: On some copies of the album, "Rape Me" was titled "Waif Me".
  • Concept Video: The video of "Heart-Shaped Box", directed by Anton Corbijn uses several images from the album artwork (particularly an obese woman dressed like the anatomic model from the cover).
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Nevermind, the album's sound is far less slick and the lyrics even more depressing.
  • Despair Event Horizon: According to Cobain, "Pennyroyal Tea" is written from the point of view of someone who's "beyond depressed."
  • Epic Rocking: The 7:28 "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip".
  • Fetus Terrible: Inverted and subverted. Cobain was fascinated by the concept of birth and evoked the imagery often in his work. The album art of In Utero also references childbirth by showing the inside of a female body and imagery of fetuses. However, to the audience this all comes across as being nauseating and creepy.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The album title, a medical term meaning "in the womb".
  • Guilt Complex: "Everything's my fault/I take all the blame/obviously from shame" in "All Apologies".
  • Grunge: A cornerstone of the genre.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Pops up in "All Apologies":
    What else should I say? Everyone is gay.
    • Though there are suggestions that Kurt meant to say the modern meaning of the word. Being well-read as he was, it's unlikely that he didn't know the double meaning, so he likely wanted to sneak in a pun here.
  • Hidden Track: "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip", though it's only hidden in the sense that you need to wait about 20 minutes after "All Apologies" ends to hear it, and is otherwise listed alongside the regular tracks.
  • Hollywood Tourette's: The track "tourette's" is Cobain just screaming his head off, and the "lyrics" are anagrams of "fuck", "shit" and "piss".
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: "tourette's". And don't bother looking at the lyric sheet on In Utero for help; it just says "Cufk, Tish, Sips". Near the end you'll hear what sounds like "cold heart!" after the incoherent babbling.
  • The Insomniac: "Pennyroyal Tea"
    I'm so tired I can't sleep
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Rape Me".
  • Irony: "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" is neither.note 
  • It's All My Fault: "All Apologies":
    Find my nest of salt, everything's my fault
    I'll take all the blame, aqua seafoam shame
  • Karmic Rape: "Rape Me" is, according to one of Kurt Cobain's explanations, about a male rapist of women being raped in jail as some sort of "poetic justice".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Pennyroyal Tea".
  • Miniscule Rocking:
    • At 1:35, "tourette's" is the shortest Nirvana song. However, it is also their heaviest song, considering the harsh noise influences and screamed vocals.
    • There's also "Very Ape" at 1:56.
  • Noise Rock: Many of the album's tracks incorporate this, mixed with their usual grunge, especially on the second half.
  • Non-Appearing Title:
    • "In Utero" is not mentioned once, though fetal imagery can be seen in the album art.
    • "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle."
  • Officially Shortened Title: Released on the 2013 reissue of the album, the track that was originally titled "Moist Vagina And Then She Blew Him Like He's Never Been Blown, Brains Stuck All Over The Wall", was officially shortened to "Moist Vagina".
  • One-Woman Song: "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle".
  • One-Word Title: "Dumb" and "tourette's".
  • Rape as Drama: "Rape Me". It was often refused airplay, but in fact it's more about Cobain's feelings about being used for rock superstar exploitation and his hatred for men oppressing and repressing women. In an interview he said it was "sort of poetic justice, where a guy rapes a girl, ends up in jail, and gets raped there."
  • Our Angels Are Different: The image on the album cover is a woman with wings, thus resembling an angel. Yet you can see the inside of her body, like a doll from biology class.
  • Record Producer: Steve Albini, though he prefers the title "engineer."
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • "Rape Me".
    • The line what else should I say: everyone is gay from "All Apologies".
    • "Dumb"
    My heart is broke / But I have some glue / Help me inhale / Mend it with you
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • "I think I'm dumb" in "Dumb".
    • "I have very bad posture" and "I'm a liar and a thief" in "Pennyroyal Tea".
  • Revisiting the Roots: In Utero was intended as one to their earlier, more aggressive sound following the more commercial Nevermind.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Meta-example. Cobain learned that his anti-rape song "Rape Me" had become a rapist's anthem when confronted over sexist lyrics, as even his intended audience couldn't really make out the words.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Salem witch trials are referenced in "Serve the Servants".
    • "Scentless Apprentice" is a homage to one of Cobain's favorite novels, Perfume by Patrick Süsskind.
    • "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle" references the tragic life of actress Frances Farmer.
    • "Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld" in "Pennyroyal Tea".
    • The liner notes thank Quentin Tarantino.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Many lyrics on this album evoke disease imagery.
    • From "Heart-Shaped Box": "I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black".
    • "Milk It":
    I am my own parasite
    I don't need a host to live
    We feed off of each other
    We can share our endorphins (...)
    I own my own pet virus
    I get to pet and name her
    Her milk is my shit
    My shit is her milk
  • Springtime for Hitler: In Utero was intended to alienate their mainstream fans, but became another big hit instead.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Pennyroyal Tea", "All Apologies", "Dumb"... "All Apologies" in particular stands out for closing out the album's rather harsh and abrasive ventures into Noise Rock during the second half; it borders on ballad territory.
  • Spoken Word: The voice-over in "tourette's" announces the track as "moderate rock", but it sure doesn't sound like it.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Dave Grohl sings lead vocals on the bonus track "Marigold". This is the only officially released Nirvana song without any contribution from Kurt Cobain - it was apparently recorded during a session Kurt was absent for, so Dave performed vocals, guitar and drums, with Krist on bass. Fittingly, it's the only Nirvana song the Foo Fighters have played.
  • Stylistic Suck: Apparently enforced by Cobain when tracking vocals, as he wanted a raw, unpolished, abrasive sound, and so the vast majority of his vocal tracks were done in one take and left as is.
  • The Unintelligible: Cobain takes this up to eleven in "tourette's".
  • Unreliable Narrator: The voice-over in "tourette's" who announces the following track as "moderate rock". It sounds anything but "moderate".
  • Uterine Replicator: The presumed intention of the album.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: "Serve the Servants":
    I tried hard to have a father but instead I had a dad
  • Women Are Wiser: A major theme throughout the album.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip", which sounds like an alcoholic mumbling about.

"All in all is all we are..."