Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies:
Released : January 25, 1994
Recorded : London Bridge Studio in Seattle; September 7 - 14, 1993
Genre : Grunge/Acoustic Rock
Lenght : 30 min 37 sec
Label : Columbia
Producer(s) : Alice In Chains
Jar of Flies was the first and only EP to reach #1 in the US album Billboard chart.The name comes from a high school science experiment of Jerry Cantrell (Singer/Lyricist/Guitarist). He took two jars, filled one with flies and food; the other with two flies and no food. The flies without food ended up eating each other.
Evolving from the alternative, progressive sound of the first track to more traditional ballads, the album seems to pay respects to Cantrell's musical roots. While the songs were all written and recorded in a single miserable and alcohol-laden week, some critics hailed it as a mini-masterpiece.
What you'll immediately notice is the downtuning.AIC use : D#, G#, C#, F#, A#, D#.So that's basically why they have such a widespread tone as the tuning is pretty common.
1) Rotten Apple (6:56) - Starts with a bass playing a nice melody.Soon a guitar with a talkbox effect layered over it shows up to make for the rhytm section.The drums are subtle but important for the general feel of the song.The instruments continue up to 1:08 when Layne kicks in.Now the vocal performance is one of the most deppresingly beautiful vocal performance I ever heard.It's absolutely incredible.Certanly Layne's finest work in my book.The normal song structure is present but the song gives off a progressive vibe.The guitar solo at 5:29 is quite impressive, especially considering this is labeled as grunge.One of the best features of this song is its replay value which is incredible.I'm currently at my 35+ sitting. (Written by : Cantrell, Inez, Staley)
2) Nutshell (4:16) - The second track is almost as good as Rotten Apple.It's one of the saddest songs of the grunge period.The only way I can describe it's acoustic beauty is by comparing it too Radiohead's How To Disappear Completely.It gives off a sad vibe.The vocal performance really does make you wonder what was happening in Layne's head at the time.His voice is classy and not overused, it's incredible.The drums are laid back and relaxing.This song also has incredible replay and emotional value. (Written by : Cantrell, Inez, Kinney, Staley)
3) I Stay Away (4:13) - The guitar intro is great with two acoustics and a layered viola melody.Now what you must understand about this song is it's structure.It really combines the happy guitar melodies of the verses and the sad vocally dominant choruses.Even with the sad parts, this song is one of AIC's most uplifting work.Layne's lyrics are less doom-laden and more cheerful and hoping.The most notable thing about the choruses are the orchestrated viola performances that add depth and give off an anthem like victory vibe.Finally the electric guitar climax hits it's height during the "I Stay Away" final chorus where everything breaks down onto what probably is the heaviest moment on the cd. (Written by : Cantrell, Inez, Staley)
4) No Excuses (4:15) - With an outgoing pace Sean Kinney's gentle drumming lead's us into No Excuses.The song has a nice vocal harmonizing part beetween Staley and Cantrell and is a simple Cantrell written acoustic sing-along.It has a nice short electric guitar solo.Cheerful and singable but not the highlight of the album for me.Even when there is not much to be said about the song I can't bring myself to give it a low score.It's a good song with a catchy chorus, just not as interesting as the previous three. (Written by : Cantrell)
5) Whale & Wasp (2.35) - Now here is an interesting song.I'm not sure AIC ever did anything simmiliar to it.It's an instrumental with a doomy sounding guitar acoustic produced subtly under a weirdly played lead guitar.This song also has a cello.That's how weird it is.The bass is just complementing the acoustic and W&W has no drums at all.It's hard to generally rate this song cause it's so opinion based and frankly it's not for everyone's taste. (Written by : Cantrell)
6) Don't Follow (4:21) - This is Jar Of Flies low key hidden gem.It's calm, relaxing and heart warming at points.Jerry's guitar is wondefully soothing and gentle.The harmonica addition gives the song a nice blend of classic rock and country rock feelings.Vocally/Lyrically it's some of Cantrell's best work with AIC.He sings about wanting to find a way home beyond his reach and closes the song with Layne with a tender relaxing touch. (Written by : Cantrell)
7) Swing On This (4:04) - Not a bad song after repeated listenings.It' quite unique in AIC's catalogue.Not that great of an ending though.The record should have finished on a note simillar to Nutshell so this is quite a dissapointment.It's not a bad song, just not a good ending to the EP.Definetly not as good as the album highlights.It features the full band at work.The inro/verse reminds me of the Seinfeld theme song bass work.An easy going melody complements the trademark Staley vocals during the verses, but the electric guitar brings back the some of the heaviness for the choruses.The song ends with Jerry improvising on Inez's bass melody and that sums up the EP. (Written by : Cantrell, Inez, Kinney, Staley)
Alice In Chains on this record are :
Jerry Cantrell - Guitar, Vocals
Sean Kinney - Percussion, Drums
Layne Staley - Vocals
Mike Inez - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Final Grade : Even though I gave some bad marks to individual songs this cd is a classic for an EP, probably a 4 when compared to LP's.But as an EP it's excellent and highly replayable.I reccomend this to any music fan.This 7 track EP is packed with much emotion and beauty.The shorthess of this classic is where it's beauty is at.