It seemed inevitable when Nirvana's Nevermind was rereleased in various formats for its 20th anniversary in 2011. It had long since been enshrined in rock's canon and frequently voted greatest album of the Nineties.
1993's In Utero, which would become the band's last studio album, has never been as loved. But as its own just-released 20th anniversary reissue reaffirms, it's a weirder, more exciting record.
Kurt Cobain enlisted Steve Albini to produce, wanting a snarling, combative sound to compliment lines like "If you ever need anything don't hesitate to ask someone else first."
Cobain is in exquisite pain on In Utero, pushing his voice to the limit on primal screams like "Scentless Apprentice" and "Tourette's", while the lyrics make allusions to sores and burns, viruses and cancers, hurting bones and broken hearts.
"Frances Farmer Will Have Revenge on Seattle" and "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" are colored by squawking guitar noises and feedback, but elsewhere R.E.M. producer Scott Litt smooths out the radio hits "Heart Shaped Box" and All Apologies" (Albini's rawer mixes of those two songs are included as bonus tracks).
When it comes to sheer number of B-sides and compilation tracks, Nirvana isn't quite Pavement, but this reissue collects those that the band did release in 1993. The highlight is the No Alternative track "Sappy", originally titled "Verse Chorus Verse."
Both titles are Cobain's way of mocking catchy hummable songs while also reminding everyone that he was quite brilliant at writing them. Unfortunately we didn't get any more, but lots of bands go decades without making a record as challenging and rewarding as In Utero.