Nirvana’s In Utero was considered a risky gambit at the time it was released (though, c’mon, it still debuted at #1), a purposefully raw, self-deprecating retreat from the astronomic success of their previous album, Nevermind. Twenty years later, the same record industry that went into full-on damage control mode then is celebrating the album as a landmark of major label rock music now.
There’s lots of intriguing stuff on the new 20th anniversary reissue, including a full remix by original producer Steve Albini, but if you want a more accurate appraisal of In Utero’s massive breadth of influence you’ll want to download Hand Drawn Dracula’s new tribute compilation, Milkin’ It. Co-organized by members of Greys and the Wooden Sky along with the label, the album works as well as an homage to Kurt Cobain’s timeless songwriting as a portrait of the diversity of Toronto’s music scene. Beyond punk, grunge and noise-rock (Teenanger, Greys, HSY), there’s kraut-rock, folk, psych, shoegaze, surf and countless other hyphenated subgenres I could invent off the top of my head. (Download the whole thing here.)
One of our favourites, though, has to be Odonis Odonis, who transform Nirvana’s wryly-named “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” into a noisy slice of industrial scuzz (you can listen to it below). Lead singer/guitarist Dean Tzenos concedes vocal duties to drummer Jarod Gibson for the song, but still Facebooked us an explanation. Like many ‘90s kids, Tzenos way overplayed In Utero to the point that he couldn’t listen to it until being asked to participate in this compilation. Going back to “Unit Shifter,” he was pleased to find not only that it held up, but that it was the ideal song to cover.
“The whole drum break down at the end gave us the perfect opening to push the electronic elements we’ve been toying with on our new material,” he says. “We’re going heavy electronic. There will still be guitars, but they won’t sound like guitars.”
For a taste of that danceable distortion, check out their new single, “Are We Friends” below, and Tzenos’ black and white analog-evoking video, which he tells us (again via Facebook message) is “meant to question the connections made through social media and the blind rate of which we consume information.”