Think of Alice in Chain
's EP Jar Of Flies
as, well, a jar of flies. For the most part, it is extremely predictable but enjoyable. Who doesn't want to watch a fly recreate with another fly? What about them suffocating to death with the absence of holes in the lid? And what about them scrambling and fighting to get to that teaspoon of potato salad you threw in the jar? Predictable? Yes. But basically this album came out of left field. Prior to this slow and dizzying EP, Alice in Chains
were the grunge/metal band that could, especially following the release of their much hailed album Dirt
. So the only proper thing to do after making a grunge/metal masterpiece was to tone down the distortion and wah pedals and bring in an acoustic guitar (for the most part anyways) and record some dazzling and beautiful music.
But I forgot to tell you about the interesing side to a jar of flies. Perhaps you can add the occasional frog into the jar and watch him gorge on a load of silvery-green flies. And who can resist watching the hatching of little miracle flies? I know I can't. Creepy? Yes. But ultimately entertaining in the fact that it is just that interesting. Mixing folk and bluegrass with a very dark and twisted undercoating, this album sounds about as tormented as the mind of Mr. John Nash. Ever seen a Beautiful Mind
? John Nash was brilliant, but quite frankly insane. Thus is the album, a mostly enjoyable and fun listen, but not without the occassional flash of horridness and pitious pieces of music. But, for the most part, this album can bring an enjoyable and soothing listen to the hardcore AiC listener and then some.
The darker side of the album is practically amazing. The three horridly twisted songs here, Rotten Apple
and to a certain extent Whale and Wasp
are all somewhat depressing listens. The first two are straight-forward, drink-yourself-to-death songs that offer little or no sunshine to break through the thick layer of vague and musically stimulating song. Rotten Apples
is a mostly bass infested piece with a think over coating of moaning vocals from Layne. A more sad piece than anything, the song may go on for six minutes plus, but it manages to stay interesting by adding many layers to the laid down rhythm sections. The guitar is constantly entertaining, as it never really stays the same but for the duration of the song it remains loyal to it's roots. And who doesn't love to hear the tormented wah-wah nuggets getting played with a such brute force that it simply renders everything else in the song obsolete? It does so in this song. It's really the first notion of a solo not being overly huge and unbearable, but also makes it part of the song. Though short, Whale and Wasp
is an acoustic piece that really doesn't show much promise. It's extremely repetetive, and even when it starts it doesn't really catch anyone's ears. Perhaps it's the fact that the chord sequence sounds like it's really torn between death and empowering joy, but it all becomes clear in the out of place chorus where it tries to bring a feeling of happiness with it's climbing chord sequence and boring (for a little while, that is) lead guitar. This song isn't exactly a keeper.
But what about Nutshell
? Well, Nutshell
is perhaps the greatest song on the album. Basically, this song starts out with little more than a few strummed chords, but mind you those chords are gorgeous. As they carry out through the song, layers of bass, drums and crunched-soaked lead guitar make an appearance. Itís the saddest piece of music that AiC have come up with, but it makes sense. Hearing Layne Stayley moan over the beautiful music sounds like the perfect memorial for his too-soon death. Quite frankly, this is one of the nineties greatest achievements musically. Itís just so powerful. But as the powerful music rides at an all time high for the band, it also can fall flat on itís face on such mediocre songs as Swing on This
, which tries for a mixture of ballroom jazz and roots blues. Now, this wouldnít be such a bad thing if it wasnít done by AiC, who made sure to have Layneís twangy vocals occupy the lead spot. Itís annoying, sure, but the music itself is quite entertaining. The chorus is pretty horrible, though. Itís repetitive, with roughly three notes in the whole thing just repeating themselves, which makes for a rough listen, as they donít sound great together to begin with. But this song is only a minor issue.
Two other songs catch my mind when I think of this EP. Both are relatively the same, slower country-inspired songs with a grunge twist, but No Excuses
is more aggressive than anything and Donít Follow
has the feel of an eighties metal ballad. As corny as the premise sounds, both songs are great. Especially No Excuses
, which starts out as eighties as it can get, but leads into a variation of easy going chords and moaning vocals. The chorus is what really catches your ears, though, as it has the fury of a normal AiC song, but itís more easy going that anything. The music rides under the wind-like deliverance of Layne, who sings (yes, sings) about how heís alone and has no regrets. Basically, this song has a country influence but erupts into a modern soothe-machine, especially with the calm and collective guitar performance. Donít Follow
is a very straight forward song about deportation and leaving loved ones behind. This song is a folksy reminder of the variety of Alice in Chains, and the overall result isnít amazing, but itís a sad little ditty anyway and provides for a minimally exciting but entertaining listen.
Basically, this EP is one of the better ones out there. Despite being short, this EP does an incredible job of being an entertaining album, and EP hardly begins to describe this EP, as it more variety than any other AiC album in full. But, alas, there are a few flaws, like the songs that sound more like jams than anything. But for the most part, this is an incredible EP and is a valuable addition to any grunge, alternative or to a certain extent folk fanís CD collection. Essentially, this is a good all around album that can vary from feel-good folk to depressing mope rock.