Nevermind versus In Utero: A Cobain Double Play

Now, usually, when there's an album comparison, it's done so in a roundtable format with True as the mediator. It's posted on and people applaud over how people with such distinct tastes and opinions can deliver them without setting the world afire in RAGE!™ This one is a little bit different.

As I've mentioned time and time again, Nirvana is one of those bands which I hold in a high regard, as they spoke to me as a pre-teen and speak to me as an adult. So, it's only natural that I attempt to put my own spin on the following question. Excluding Bleach, the box sets, the re-releases, etc., which is a better album: Nevermind or In Utero? I have excluded Bleach et al because, while needed in understanding who the group was/is, to keep things DAR-related, Bleach is the The End is Coming to Nevermind's Genesis or In Utero's Exodus.


Nevermind was the album which introduced Nirvana to the mainstream. With sing-a-long-ready tracks such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are," and "Stay Away," it's easily the most accessible album the group put out. Some of the bite that we've seen on In Utero, Bleach, and other tracks, either through the "jarring" non-mixes, the bluntness of the lyrical content, and so on, it's not as apparent. Yes, we get the snark and the deeper meaning on songs such as "In Bloom," especially in its chorus. However, it's often lost under the fact that everything sounds so glossy, so well-groomed. It's not a bad thing, because "Smells Like Teen Spirit," for better or worse, is still a great song. I still crank it up whenever I've got a Cobain mix going on Spotify. But, Nevermind, if you're going for overly deep Cobain and pals, you're better served (pun intended) going with In Utero.

Now, In Utero isn't perfect, either. But, that's what makes it the perfect follow-up to Nevermind and, well, perfect. It takes just about everything people knew about Nirvana (glossy production, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," songs with deep meanings that most people wouldn't get on first listen, etc.) and flushed it down the toilet. What remained was a group, through the recording magic (read: no studio magic at all, really) of Steve Albini, that managed to become its own antithesis. In Utero was blunt. It still had some of the sing-songy songs, such as "All Apologies" and "Rape Me." But even the sing-songy songs had more weight to them. Look at the lyrical content of "Rape Me." A pretty brutal song title, its multifaceted meaning was made more clear through Nirvana making music less for "the fairweather fans" and more just speaking from the heart, so to speak. It was less about selling a record or appealing to "The Man," more about the music. And it showed. While In Utero was successful, it still has sold less than half of its predecessor's total sales. Does that mean that In Utero, because it was "more for the 'real'," is a better album than Nevermind?

Yes and no. Both albums are amazing and it, ultimately, boils down to what you're feeling at the time. If you want dark Nirvana with some light, early-1990s grunge tinge to it, go Nevermind. If you want Nirvana at its intellectual peak, you may be more inclined to go to In Utero. However, I'd have to say that neither album is "better" than the other. If we could've gotten a double album with Nevermind and In Utero, to showcase both "sides" of the group, and Cobain as a songwriter, that's the ideal. So, go out, stream both the albums, and let me know what you think on Twitter at @SpeedontheBeat

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