Sunday, January 5, 2014

Samuel Locke Ward - In Utero

We've just passed the weird 20th anniversary of the release of In Utero, weird in the sense that a.) has it really been two decades? and b.) am I really 20 years older?

I don't know how I feel about either one, but I know for certain that I'm not going to enjoy the bundles of articles written about the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, filled with tons of remberance stories, just in time for Nirvana's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Here we are now, entertain us!

What will be lost in all of this is the same thing that was lost when In Utero was originally released: it's a remarkable record, the album we wanted Cobain to make and the record he needed to make. The suicide messed all of that analysis up in the end, and it will again when we start jerking off to the picture of Kurt's rotting corpse lying stiff on the hardwood floor of his home this coming April.

I have no idea why Samuel Locke Ward decided to release a track-by-track cover of Nirvana's third record. It runs the risk of being viewed as a joke because the songs are complete re-workings of that album, left in a fashion that is easily dismissed while being eerily appropriate.

Keep in mind, the release of this cover comes after SLW released a fucking album a month in 2013, making this the 13th full-length that the Iowa City native has made in as many months, further adding to the notion that all of this may very well be a rush job of inside humor, an ironic statement on the celebrity of our dead rocker.

Personally, I don't believe it. The songs are noticeable only because of the track listing and the jokes are only prevalent if you're coming into the record in the same manner that mouth-breathers did when In Utero was released.

An example of this was when a former girlfriend told me a story of a guy she began dating after we broke up. She told me that he was trying to impress her somewhat advanced music background by telling her that he had just purchased the new Nirvana album, pronoucing it "In-Ute-Tair-Oh."

They didn't have many more dates after that conversation.

To be honest, I haven't heard In Utero in many years. I really don't need to as it's been committed to memory, just like Led Zeppelin IV or Born In The U.S.A. I did toy with obtaining the vinyl version of Steve Albini's 2013 mix of the record before laughing at the idea that Steve Albini even agreed to such a thing.

If anything, Samuel Locke Ward's version has made me want to hear it again, which I suppose is praise.

Another bit of praise: I wanted to hear S.L.W.'s version again too. Out of pleasure, not obligation for this review of it.

The vocals are treated in many cases, turned into goofy Chipmunks range here, distorted megaphone tactics there. There is no percussion and several songs are nothing more than guitar-vocal offerings. It sounds like it was recorded on the cheap, in a bedroom with little sonic opportunities, which is one way of saying that it was recorded using a fucking computer.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, because by changing the entire delivery method of this record, SLW has unwhittingly changed the entire intent of In Utero. If you'll recall, Nirvana's controversary with this record came in the manner in which it sounded. It was rough around the edges, defiantly un-commercial and intentionally alienating. It was made to ween off the more fairweather fans and assure the rest of us that the band understood: There were a lot of meatheads tagging along for the ride that weren't welcome.

So maybe SLW's take is intended to alienate people like me, folks who unfortunately heard In Utero in much more personal terms, thereby making Cobain's suicide in April more devistating. This reinterpretation-whatever the intention behind it-forces listeners to consider In Utero for all that it essentially is: a collection of songs no longer tied to a specific group or generation.

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