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Music / In Utero

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Or maybe just happy, Think I'm just happy..

In Utero is the third and final studio album by Nirvana, released in 1993. It was the long anticipated official follow-up to Nevermind. In many ways, it was a desperate attempt to return back to their Alternative Rock roots after hitting it so big with Nevermind. It still became a best-seller, though. "Heart-Shaped Box", "Rape Me" and "All Apologies" became hits. Rolling Stone listed it at #435 in their Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, being elevated at #173 on their 2020 revised list.



  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" (7:28)

Bonus Tracks (2013 Reissue):

  1. "Marigold"
  2. "Moist Vagina"
  3. "Sappy"
  4. "I Hate Myself and Want to Die"
  5. "Pennyroyal Tea (Alternate Mix)"
  6. "Heart-Shaped Box (Alternate Mix)"
  7. "All Apologies (Alternate Mix)"


Principal Members:

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

Pennyroyal Tropes:

  • 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. 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 music singles of "Rape Me" and "All Apologies" shows a seahorse, an animal species known for the fact that the male gets pregnant and gives birth.
  • 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".
  • 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 Kmart and Walmart. In some small towns, like where he grew up, these were the only places to buy records.
  • 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".
  • 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).
  • Corpsing: Kurt struggles to avoid laughing in "Milk It"'s final chorus.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Nevermind the 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.
  • Filk Song: "Scentless Apprentice" was based on the novel Perfume.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Track: "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip".
  • Hollywood Tourette's: The track "tourette's" is Cobain just screaming his head off.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: "tourette's". And don't bother looking at the lyric sheet on In Utero for help, it just says "Cufk, Tish, Sips".
  • 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 
  • 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".
  • Long Title: "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" and "Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip".
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Pennyroyal Tea".
  • Miniscule Rocking: At 1:35, "tourette's" is the shortest Nirvana song. However, it is also their heaviest song, considereing the harsh noise influences and growled vocals.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Everything from 2 to 9 is covered here:
    • 2: "Dumb"
    • 3: "All Apologies"
    • 4: "Heart-Shaped Box"
    • 5: "Rape Me", "Pennyroyal Tea"
    • 6: "Serve the Servants", "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle"
    • 7: "Very Ape"
    • 8: "Scentless Apprentice", "Milk It", "Radio Friendly Shifter Unit"
    • 9: "tourette's"
  • 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"...
  • Spoken Word: The voice-over in "tourette's" announces the track as "moderate rock".
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: 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.
  • 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.


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