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I Hate Myself and Want to Die

In Utero / Kurt Cobain – Frank Scali

It would tie pretty good with our day: hating yourself and wishing for death. Keep it all inside and blow it up, not caring too much about the consequences. Perhaps the fact of having stayed here, of never having left, despite the atrocious flight and the words of farewell, is proof that the pain, all this suffering, belongs to us. Today more than ever.

In The Wrestler, remembering the bands of his generation, Randy The Ram / Mickey Rourke croaks that their only purpose, before “that Cobain pussy came around and ruined it all”, was to have a good time, “what’s wrong with that”? And watching him bounce to the notes of Ratt’s Round and Round, complete with beer in his hand, as well as being decidedly “dated”, The Ram is also a lovable big gorilla still wearing the desire to fight and fool around. Here’s what Cobain and those like him did: they’ve definitively demolished the innocence of rock and life. The ability to react according to principles, in a world that one by one has lost them all.

A note someone wrote at Kurt Cobain’s bench in Seattle Wa – Photo: Lizzy Faragher

I Hate Myself and Want to Die is the first draft of the title for Nirvana’s latest studio album — In Utero —, which was then discarded because it was definitely too explicit. Thirteen tracks that have affirmed and changed a lot of things about grunge, and beyond.

Unlike Nevermind, which flows smoothly and homogeneously from the “stench” of Smells Like Teen Spirit to the gloomy resignation of Something in the Way, without causing particular disturbances, In Utero instead seems to suffer dense moments of emptiness and paranoid gestation, filled with the desperate screams of the leader and the not always effective textures of his guitar.

Nirvana at MTV Live and Loud (December 1993) – Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

However, compared to its predecessor, it is undoubtedly the album in which the pulsating soul of the band is felt more than anywhere else, a direct and confidential experience that leaves little or nothing to perfectionism and affectation. The tones are high, often deafening, the feed taken with anger to the extreme. Pearls of the album — and pearls of an entire career, together with In Bloom and You Know You’Re Right — are Serve the Servants, Heart-Shaped Box and All Apologies.

In Utero has to do with the bowels of modern existence, with endurance and the inevitable drying up of amniotic fluid: the desire to return as soon as possible to where one came out. Spreading the bloody wings, just to shake off some glances and dust. The sense of discomfort and bewilderment is in every note, in every guitar solo, starting with the brilliant and highly personal one of Serve the Servants.

Kurt’s painting animated for Cobain: Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen
Kurt’s Painting

It is a red desert to lord it in a dream. A convertible cadillac slides over a ghostly-toned landscape panel, without breathing or alternation solutions — it is actually the panel which scrolls by means of a mechanical crank —, while the cadillac vibrates and jumps from its platform with a desert soil effect. From time to time it is dragged forward by a rope tied to the front fender, thus giving the sensation of accelerating abruptly, with the mega-fan starting with each sprint to give even more life to the effect. On board there are them, the Nirvana of Seattle: Cobain slung on the reddish skin of the back seat, singing and delirious. In front of him, on the same amaranth skin, being amazed by the landscape — Grohl —, and driving focused on the flow of his own thoughts, more than on the road, — Novoselic —, the rest of the band. When the piece ends, all three jump out of the car and head west, amidst cables and stage lights. Kurt pauses at a desk in the study and seems to hesitate for a moment, with a dark boyish gaze on his friends. When the camera is about to move on, leaving him there alone, while the others are waiting for him for a while before going to the dressing rooms, the tears do everything by themselves.

It is a new day, in which everyone seems to be so caught up in themselves. But from here to detesting oneself and to long for a violent end, the step is too short: something doesn’t add up. Cobain screams the horror of this paradox, the rape that awaits those who obsessively surround themselves with their uniqueness, without ever noticing anything. By hurting. Something has seriously gone wrong, and it’s not that great to look at it. No more landmarks, nothing to deal with, apart from the chaos and noise. Perhaps it is true that it is not worth losing sight of reality. Maybe once. I don’t know today.

I tried hard to have a father
But instead I had a dad

Kurt, Frances Bean Cobain and Courtney Love in front of the Kurt’s collage used for the back cover of In Utero – Photo: Charles Peterson

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