Anatomy in Music: Nirvana

If you paid even the slightest attention to Nirvana you would quickly notice a common theme—anatomy and various deviations from the bodily “norm”.

Their early album Incesticide is well…titled Incesticide and the cover art gave an early glimpse into front man Kurt Cobain’s fascination with the body.  Included on the album are “(New Wave) Polly”, about the abduction, torture, and rape of a young girl in Washington state; “Molly’s Lips”, a Vaselines cover presumably about Scottish actress Molly Weir’s lips; and “Aneurysm.” All of these songs deal with some sort of distortion to or fascination with the human body, accidental or forced.

nirvana incesticide front

Later, Nirvana released In Utero, again, a title that quickly made clear the interest in anatomy. The album cover was designed with an anatomical statue as well as Cobain’s own art work that shows a fetus and other body parts. In addition, the song “Heart-Shaped Box” was accompanied by a video that highlights various stages of the body’s growth and eventual decay.

Nirvana inuetero
Nirvana inutero back cover

Another stand out track from In Utero is “Scentless Apprentice.” The song references Patrick Suskind’s character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from his novel Das Parfum. Grenouille is a perfumer in France obsessed with the idea of capturing human scent and begins brutally murdering women in order to preserve their scent and create the perfect perfume.

Finally, aside from their music and album artwork, Cobain created his own pieces that often referenced the human body as seen below.

Hyper laurie fistula kurt cobain painting
Seahorse and figure Kurt Cobain