Alice in Chains
Jar of Flies


4.5
superb

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
September 26th, 2009 | 17 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


Episode IV: Jar of Flies

After extensive and tiring tour for their hit Dirt, in the middle of which bassist Mike Starr left and was replaced by Mike Inez, Alice in Chains found themselves in a position where were not particularly motivated to write new material. They got kicked out of their residence, unable to pay the rent, and sank into a mood of depression. What followed was an experimental session with acoustic guitars, similar to what they had done previously with Sap.

‘’We never really planned on the music we made at that time to be released. But the record label heard it and they really liked it. For us, it was just the experience of four guys getting together in the studio and making some music’’ ~ Layne Staley, August 1994

And so that happened. Alice recorded 7 tracks, and they were released on a next EP in early ‘94, which was entitled Jar of Flies. Although predominantly acoustic, it also features some of their heavier aspects, present on their regular studio albums. The EP was widely praised although being such a spontaneous release, and the band, especially Cantrell, enjoyed working with Inez, praising him for his bass lines.

Jar of Flies’ Alice in Chains was:

- Layne Thomas Staley (R.I.P.) ~ Lead Vocals
- Jerry Fulton Cantrell ~ Lead Guitar, Vocals
- Michael Jennings ~ Bass Guitar, Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Sean Howard Kinney ~ Drums, Percussion

Guest musicians:

- April Acevez ~ Viola
- Rebecca Clemons-Smith ~ Violin
- Matthew Weiss ~ Violin
- Justine Foy ~ Violin cello
- David Atkinson ~ Harmonica
- Randy Biro ~ Backing Vocals
- Darrel Peters ~ Backing Vocals

Do not be deceived by its acoustics, because Jar of Flies can be just as dark and haunting as Facelift and Dirt, although in a more beautiful appearance. Mike Inez was a welcome addition to the front, and proves he is an equal, if not better a bassist than Starr, providing some very stunningly emotional bass lines, most notably with the album opener Rotten Apple, where his line is a perfect introduction the entire work, and the very moody Nutshell. The interplay between him and Cantrell is nothing short of fantastic, and provides some of the album’s best experiences, the most unique of these being the sharp contrast between Inez’ opening bass line for Rotten Apple and the very acid-like riff that Cantrell counters it with.

As for Cantrell himself, his playing once again positively dominates the sound of the album, and both his acoustic and electric playing is amazing. Yet another contrast is created by Staley, who is, unlike he was on Dirt, very consistent in quality vocals, mixing emotional softness with his trademark wail, sometimes in the same song, best demonstrated by I Stay Away.

And Jar of Flies is not only an album full of contrast, but also full of variation. Definite highlights are the first three, with Nutshell winning by miles, simply because of its truly heartfelt beauty. Rotten Apple is gorgeously dark, I Stay Away features a complete classical backing (most dominantly violins) that actually works tremendously well with the song, No Excuses is surprisingly upbeat for an Alice in Chains song, and Whale & Wasp is both strange and captivating. Don’t Follow is a simple, solid soft track that can’t quite match the rest of Jar because it lacks depth, but closer Swing On This on the other hand, has interesting in-song changes, ranging from harmonica-driven to soul-influenced to traditional Staley wails.

It must be concluded, therefore, that Jar of Flies’ songs are all strong, but more importantly, all very unique. This album binds together everything what Alice in Chains stood and stand for in one of the best way imaginable, while still adding some new elements. It is the underrated classic in their catalogue, and strongly recommended for those not too big on heavy Alice. This EP probably became so great an experience simply because of the way it was written: the band didn’t anyhow put a duty on themselves to release a new album, and what followed was a spontaneous outburst of musical shimmer and genius. A shame that outburst only lasts 30 minutes.

Yoda recommends:

Nutshell
I Stay Away
Rotten Apple
No Excuses


To be continued...



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user ratings (1680)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
September 26th 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This is probably my favourite EP.

KILL
September 26th 2009


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yea probably mine too, if not Subterranean

awesome review

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

Romulus
September 26th 2009


8441 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is my favorite AiC material, but Dirt gets the nod for a classic because its a full-length. Strangely I think Whale & Wasp is my favorite. I love the harmonizing guitars.

fireaboveicebelow
September 26th 2009


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I never listen to the last song, but the rest is always awesome

Ricven
September 26th 2009


207 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Definitely my favorite AiC release. Damn near perfect.

NebSnurb
September 26th 2009


535 Comments


Good review, Rotten Apple is my favorite off this.

LepreCon
September 26th 2009


4141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I have still yet to hear the new album, but I do think this is one of the best EPs ever made and I spin it quite regularly when I need something a little mellower than my usual listening.

Brilliant review as always, Nagrarok

Nagrarok
September 26th 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks for the approval guys, although I feel Conor here is a little too overpraising. I did not achieve the quality I set out to achieve with this discography.

KebertXela
September 26th 2009


367 Comments


Jar of Flies is awesome. I agree with your review.

Romulus
September 26th 2009


8441 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

They've all been great reads thus far. Is the Unplugged on your agenda by any chance?

Nagrarok
September 26th 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Of course. It will be my 50th review also.

Chewie
September 26th 2009


4532 Comments


the episodic thing is cool

Nagrarok
September 26th 2009


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks.

I would definitely give this a 5 if it had a better closer. Swing on This is a good song, but a classic record needs to finish in style.

EVedder27
September 26th 2009


6088 Comments


good review. This happens to be my favorite AIC record even though its short. "Nutshell" is an amazing song.

shindip
January 25th 2010


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

such a gorgeous album

KILL
July 25th 2010


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nutshell makes me cry

dannyboy89
May 15th 2013


12026 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This EP rules.



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