Alice in Chains
Jar of Flies


5.0
classic

Review

by Josh Fountain CONTRIBUTOR (63 Reviews)
February 5th, 2013 | 20 replies | 1,304 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A rare glimpse into the light for Layne Staley

Artists who are fueled by their vices are always a curious case to analyze. No one wants to see the artist get dragged down and destroyed by their problems, but at the same time the drugs (or whatever else is weighing down the artist) are a part of what is causing the artist to reach such levels of greatness. Now, back in the early nineties, Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley were both heavily addicted to drugs, and as a result of their pain and sorrow, wrote arguably the greatest album about such troubles Dirt. It was twelve songs that expressed the hopelessness that came with their maladies. The overwhelming feeling one gets when listening to Dirt is such that there was no way out, no hope, no light. Not only were the lyrics depressing but Cantrell made every guitar line harsh and painful, creating an all-enveloping sense of loss and self-loathing. Jar of Flies, a mostly acoustic EP recorded over a week and released a year and a half after Dirt, continues mostly in the lyrical path laid out by its predecessor, but offers glimmers of hope through the despair.

The first two tracks on the EP, “Rotten Apple” and “Nutshell”, are easily the two most depressing of the album, with lyrics such as “We face the path of time, and yet I fight this battle all alone, no one to cry to, no place to call home”, found on “Nutshell.” Layne Staley is at his most haunting on these tracks, his vocals conveying the agony he feels. “Nutshell” is truly a masterpiece as well, powered by pensive acoustic guitar, with mournful electric guitar cutting through at times to add on to the power of the song. On a certain level, no song more perfectly describes Layne Staley’s legacy than “Nutshell”, the pervading darkness surrounding Staley’s vocals as he slowly accepts the situation he created while searching helplessly for a way out.

“Nutshell” is followed up by “I Stay Away”, which is Layne slowly crawling out of his lowest point. The guitar work is more optimistic in tone, with strings in the background helping to lift the song into more peaceful territory. The lyrics delve into more uplifting territory as well, describing a negative influence and using that influence as fire to pull himself out of the darkness. It all culminates with Staley’s powerful wail of the title, reaffirming his conviction. Every song on Jar of Flies is filled with compassion, with “No Excuses” and “Don’t Follow” raising the second half to almost equal footing with the first half, succeeding in wrenching every bit of emotion from relatively simple guitar and Staley’s best vocal work of his career. The only (minor) slip is with the closer “Sing On This”, a seeming attempt at more of a bluesy sound, which while still a good song, doesn’t fit very well with the rest of the EP, ultimately making it end on a low note.

Jar of Flies is an emotional, heart-wrenching experience, one that is truly cathartic by its finish. Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell are at their absolute best, letting you into the myriad of emotions and feelings they were going through at the height of their fame and addiction. They were able to tap into their most tortured thoughts and still come out with reassurance that one day those demons would be beaten for good. Unfortunately, most know about Layne Staley’s unfortunate death in 2002, his demons finally getting to the best of him, which makes Jar of Flies much more fascinating and sad in retrospect. Maybe if he had better support, or one less bad day, he could have taken the convictions displayed on record and used them to conquer his vices. Sadly, we will never know.



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user ratings (1632)
Chart.
4.3
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



7970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

One of my favorite albums of all time, beautiful and haunting

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



49788 Comments


good eats

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

foxxxythnksustnk
February 5th 2013



2132 Comments


hear hear

KILL
February 5th 2013



70573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

everydaaaaaaaaaaaaay something hits me all so cooooooooooold

Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

YankeeDudel
February 5th 2013



9305 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

might be best ep ever

Digging: DJ Spooky - Songs Of A Dead Dreamer

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



7970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think it is

Chortles
February 5th 2013



17904 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great read, posd hard. album is indeed amazing

Digging: Yo La Tengo - Electr-O-Pura

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



4507 Comments


rotten apple is the heaviest song red house painters ever wrote

KILL
February 5th 2013



70573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5



pissbore
February 5th 2013



9935 Comments


[2]

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



7970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best EP ever don't dispute it

Gyromania
February 5th 2013



15198 Comments


good review. this is probably my favourite thing by alice in chains, and rotten apple is far and away my favourite song of theirs.

VermicideReloadead
February 5th 2013



1433 Comments


Best EP ever, specially Rotten Apple, Nutshell and Don't follow are splendid, my least favorite is I stay away. Anways, 5 this or die

KILL
February 5th 2013



70573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

swing on this is easily the worst

BigPleb
February 5th 2013



33987 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best band ever

Digging: Opeth - Pale Communion

undertakerpt
February 5th 2013



1174 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great E.P.
On par with ATDI's Vaya, and An Endless Sporadic's Ameliorate



slagun
February 5th 2013



674 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review. Record is truly unreal. Rotten Apple and Nutshell have got to be one of the best songs ever written.

VermicideReloadead
February 5th 2013



1433 Comments


Rotten Apple and Nutshell have got to be one of the best songs ever written.
[2]

By the way Undertakerpt, your avatar is cool as fuck.

foxblood
February 5th 2013



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

gonna listen to this

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2013



7970 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

you better



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