Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 165
Sat. July 13, 2013
While In Utero is rightly remembered for rocking such introspective scorchers like “Heart Shaped Box,” “All Apologies” and “Pennyroyal Tea;” in reality “Milk It” was the quintessential Nirvana song on their third and final studio album. Never a fan of working with major label artists like Nirvana, in Gillian G. Gaar’s 33 1/ 3 tome on In Utero, producer Steve Albini specifically named “Milk It” was one of the most memorable of all during In Utero’s infamous recording when he said, “There’s always one or two songs on any given session that strike you as being the money shot, like ‘Wow, this is an amazing song, this is where everything came together, and this is really great.’ For me, that was [“Milk It”] and “Scentless Apprentice.” Those are the two that struck me as being the biggest step for the band. They seemed like the biggest break with their aggressive pop style that they were developing for themselves. [“Milk” and “Scentless”] seemed the most adventurous sonically, and the most up my alley anyway.”
Kurt Cobain would dispute Albini and most critics calling In Utero a more aggressive and non-commercial punk rock record when in 1993 he told Michael Azerrad in his book Comes As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, “I don’t think of [In Utero] as any harsher or any emotional than the other two records. I’m still equally as pissed off about the things that made me pissed off years ago. And all I can do is scream into a microphone instead.” According to Gaar’s 33 1/3 book on In Utero, “Milk It” was originally entitled “PiL” after Kurt’s love of every thing Johnny Rotten; especially the former Sex Pistol front man John Lydon’s 1980’s post punk band Public Image Limited. While I hear Polly Jean Harvey’s influence all over this Jackson Pollack’s painting coming to life as a punk rock cacophony; former Nirvana guitar tech Earnie Bailey shared the recipe to “Milk It’s” success in Everett True’s Nirvana: The True Story, when he explained, “Dale Crover [Editor’s Note: Melvins drummer who also wielded the sticks for Nirvana for a short time.] stopped by my hotel room at the Phoenix, and asked if he could hear [In Utero]. I had a cassette copy, so I put it on. I was nervous when “Milk It” came on; because it was very derivative of the Melvins’ song “It Shoved.” When it started, I saw this puzzled look come across Dale’s face, which gradually changed as he realized it was a compliment, ultimately.”
Did you know in Azerrad’s Come As You Are, Kurt talked about how he wanted future Nirvana songs to sound like “Milk It” when he explained, “I definitely don’t want to write more songs like “Pennyroyal Tea” and “Rape Me.” That kind of classic rock and roll verse-chorus-verse, mid-tempo pop song is getting real boring. I want to do more new wave, avant-garde stuff with a lot of dynamics—stops and breaks and maybe even some samples of weird noises and things—I want to turn into the Butthole Surfers basically.” “Milk It” is far from a Butthole Surfers-esque cut;” Like Kurt, bassist Krist Novoselic actually raved about “Milk It” in Gaar’s In Utero, when said, “That’s a gnarly song. The lyrics are pretty heavy. I got the bass nailed and really steady in a way that kind of harks back to “Teen Spirit.” It’s the same formula, but its way twisted, kind of grotesque—it’s a grotesque song.” This grotesque song was named along with “Heart Shaped Box” as drummer Dave Grohl’s favorite Nirvana songs of all time.
Speaking of Grohl, after the reunion of Nirvana with Krist, Grohl and guitarist Pat Smear with former Beatle Paul McCartney, Dave was asked by NME to name one Nirvana song he could cover live, the former Nirvana drummer replied, “Every once in a while we talk about it. For the Sound City gig here in London we were thinking about musicians that we could invite because Stevie Nicks and John Fogerty couldn’t make it. Someone came up with the idea of doing a Nirvana song with PJ Harvey. Kurt loved her and we love her and we thought, ‘Yeah, what would we do?’ I said: ‘God, what if we were to do ‘Milk It’ from ‘In Utero’ with Polly singing?’ We all looked at each other like, ‘Woah that would be amazing…’ and then she couldn’t do it!” Just imagine, Polly Jean Harvey fronting Nirvana with Grohl, Novoselic and Smear backing her bringing Cobain’s colorfully twisted lyrics into a post modern tribute that would make Kurt smiling in his afterworld resting place. You know Kurt would be howling with his approval. This has to happen. When Nirvana is inducted to the Hall of Fame, Polly Jean has to front Kurt’s former band and make this a reality.
Who wouldn’t want to witness one of Nirvana’s best and most savagely brilliant punk inspired disharmony back to life? You can re-experience the next best thing. With In Utero celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, let’s honor one of the most explosive songs in Nirvana’s short lived but volatile song canon, drink up the demented sweetness of “Milk It.” A double dose of head banging and slam dancing to this Nirvana classic will do your body and soul some deaf defying good.