Rock and roll has been known to be a dirty genre. Since most of the popular music that was coming out at the time was from the realm of jazz and big band, hearing something like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley sounded like some of the nastiest music imaginable. That’s not to say that rock didn’t eventually learn how to clean up nicely.
Going through rock history, there are many different albums that have amazing productions behind them, whether that be using new recording techniques or the way they captured little moments in the studio as the tape was rolling. This isn’t a matter of dissecting the individual songs and finding out what they really mean. Even if some bands have the greatest songs of all time, it’s easy for them to sound dated in a few years if you don’t have the right producer in the chair. These weren’t just artists looking to just make another collection of songs.
This was a matter of making something long lasting, and half of these artists could practically be considered more like engineers than actual musicians. There’s still the same bite of rock and roll in here, but there’s just a little more sheen going on this time around.
10. In Utero - Nirvana
There are probably a bunch of audiophiles just shaking their heads at a pick like this, wondering how the hell anything with Steve Albini’s name on it could be on here. This is a guy known for some pretty gnarly hardcore punk records from back in the day, and hearing him teaming up with Nirvana made for one of the most abrasive sounding records of their career. All of that is true…and that’s why this thing sounds so amazing.
When work started on In Utero, Kurt Cobain envisioned it sounding really rough around the edges, and you can hear that from the first discordant sound of Serve the Servants. Throughout this entire record, Kurt was definitely at his wit’s end, and the production puts us right in the chaos with him, from the drums sounding loud as hell and the guitars sounding really in your face whenever they are brought up in the mix. This album was designed to be a lot more artsy, and listening to it makes you feel like you have raw nerves, as Kurt lashes out against his newfound fame and makes it sound like a living Hell.
When the nastiness is pushed back though, the softer moments shine that much brighter like the cello on All Apologies or the sleepy sound of Dumb. And to Albini’s credit, he did know when to push things a little bit more in the mix, like filling out the chorus of Heart Shaped Box with growling power chords from Krist Novoselic’s bass. This might not have been the Nirvana record most fans were asking for, but you start to appreciate the different left turns every time you put it on.