Inside In Utero And Outside Production


This video is a fascinating glimpse into what could have been and what might be coming. Until the original Steve Albini / Nirvana mixes are mastered properly, to suit the whole album listening experience and released (hopefully/unfortunately as part of an In Utero reissue) it’s a hard one to call. And maybe there’s no real point.

As much as I love Albini’s production, Litt’s remixes are slight by the standard of the time. Recall, this is an era of music where Andy Wallace would reassemble tracked recordings almost as much as he mixed them; sometimes to good effect (Sonic Youth’s Dirty is a treasure trove of hidden hooks and overdubs and Roots by Sepultura is brutally effective) and sometimes to a lesser extent (Nirvana’s Nevermind sounds like shrill cotton candy in parts and bad 80s in others):

Sonic Youth’s Dirty (Full Album):

Roots by Sepultura (Full Album):

Nevermind (Full Album): 

So a bit of compression and effect tweaking on Litt’s part is hardly the big deal music history makes it out to be. These are not overly significant sonic changes, it’s the clashing ideologies and the sniff of a juicy story that charged all this.

Yet there really is an undeniable sense of something else in the Albini mixes. Again, I’m not sure if this is the idea itself that’s so enchanting: I consider the album one of the peaks of the whole early 90s alt-rock/grunge moment but it could have been even more of a coup had an album that sounded like The Jesus Lizard been delivered to the listening public with the full weight of commercial industry.

But, all in all, it was a raging success for me. Trainspotters may enjoy the trivia 20 years later but how many of us were introduced to Steve Albini and noise-rock and Amrep and analogue via this album and this exact story? I was. This split things open for me. I was a huge teenage Nirvana fan. When the media told me I’d hate In Utero (too rough and wild), and then I didn’t hate it one bit…that made me even more curious.

Nevermind was an album anyone could enjoy.

Some of In Utero was something a few people could agree on, namely those singles.

But I was one of those people that heard the noise and thrash of that album and it signalled something to me. I went out and found all the other people who agreed. And it was endless. There were hundreds of records laying in wait behind In Utero and that catalogue is what the band really sold me, even if the message was slightly compromised along the way.


2 thoughts on “Inside In Utero And Outside Production

  1. still one of my favourite sounding records. maybe it was compromised, but somehow i think that maybe the compromises made it better.

    although… goat. and ben hur. and that slint 10″. and at action park. he was doing some good shit in the early 90s.

  2. I think the production of In Utero and Nevermind are both great despite being very different. I can see that In Utero makes Nevermind sound soft but I don’t hear ‘bad 80s’. In fact, I think the production of Nevermind makes it a distinctly 90s album i.e. a time where you got an ‘indie’, ‘garage’ (or whatever you want to call it) band and give them a big, accessible ‘major label’ sound and I think that was a good thing. I think the production of, say, Where You Been is much better than You’re Living All Over Me, same with Dirty vs. Sister or Loveless vs. Isn’t Anything. Kurt disparaged the sound of Nevermind but only after it had sold 10 million copies and he could see that it was the production that contributed to it’s meteoric rise. When the deluxe version of In Utero gets released, all the (and I hate to use this term but) hipsters will be going on about the Albini mixes being better but from what I can hear, the Scott Litt versions are an improvement.

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