Review Summary: Alice sheds the glam and starts down her lonely, depressing path…
“…music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day… "
-Pavement - Cut your Hair
Yes Mr. Malkmus, the early nineties were an interesting time. Bands were popping up and trying new things all the time. More importantly they were being supported by mass audiences. I can’t personally vow for his statement but I’ve listened to enough alterative music out of that era to tell something was different in the air. Alice In Chains
was one of these new up and comers. In 92’ they were faced with the daunting task of creating a follow up to the highly praised debut album Facelift
. This may have come as a big lump in the throat for the band. Although I’m guessing it came more as a question mark for the group. What were they going to try and do now?
This is what they did. Instead of creating another fists-in-the-air metal album, they chose to go with a much softer and darker vibe. The songs no longer retained the raw edginess that their debut was swamped in. Gone are the crunchy guitar riffs and heavy charged drum hits. Now we hear dissonant chord progressions combined with moody but catchy vocal harmonization. This change in style would also allow the band to hone their song writing skills and expand their sound. “Brother” uses some Latin percussion as well as the voice of Heart’s
lead singer Ann Wilson. Both of which would have felt completely out of place on Facelift. It works though, and what we’re left is a great acoustic ballad.
Much of this new sound is in large part to lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell. He really finds his niche on this album. He takes over as lead vocalist on a few tracks making the one-two punch of Staley and Cantrell really feel like a team effort. His acoustic work is also nothing short of superb. The simple riff of “Got me Wrong” is one of the best I’ve ever heard. The kind of thing you want to hear around a nice campfire. Lyrically the songs tend to focus more around Cantrell’s past experiences since he’s the primary lyricist. “Brother” talks about his self created split with his brother, while “Got me Wrong” is centered around a failed relationship.
While the first two tracks are dead on, the last few songs drag on. Fellow grungemen Chris Cornell (Soundgarden
) and Mark Arm (Mudhoney
) help spice up “Right Turn” but don’t save the song. “Am I Inside” brings Wilson’s vocals back, though without as much success as “Brother”. The song is haunting but somewhat boring. “Love Song” sounds like bad Mr. Bungle filler and is a complete waste of time. Not only that, but it serves as a poor finale to a solid acoustic E.P. It was obvious that the group just didn’t have enough ideas at the time to make a full fledged album.
To be honest, I generally only listen to the first two songs on this album. They’re the only reason I rated this album as high as I did. The album really only has four songs. Two of which are sub-par. This album serves more as a precursor to their later material. The downer vibe on the album would be fused with their metal roots to make the wonderful Dirt
. And that same trademark style would be increased tenfold on the overly gloomy Jar of Flies
. Get the album for the first two tracks. Otherwise feel free to pass on Sap