There are things I don’t understand, like for instance discovering 10 minutes ago that I hadn’t written yet about the self-titled album of Alice In Chains. Isn’t it silly knowing how much I love this band?
The only explanation I can find for such a terrible mistake is that every time I listen to this wonderful masterpiece, I think of my first pressing vinyl I bought for just £1 in Edinburgh in 1998 in hands of certain asshole who took it away from me in a moment of confusion and never gave it back. Eventually I will get another copy on vinyl but this shit still gets me angry.
Anyway, FUCK HIM.
In 1995 I was a bit disappointed with the band after the release of the ep Jar of Flies, which I told you, I found very soft when it came out, but now I’m in love with, so when I heard that a new album was coming I decided not to buy it immediately waiting for comments about it. But Christmas time came, and Diana’s mum, Carmen, asked me what I wanted as a present, so I thought it was a good chance to listen to the new album, Alice In Chains, without taking many risks.
You must understand I was 19, always short of money (similar to nowadays but with no responsibilities nor bills, hahaha), thus purchasing a CD meant an investment and a sacrifice, because even though album releases were as expensive as nowadays, our buying power was lower. Thus you had to choose wisely.
The tripod dog album came to my life in Xmas, 1995-1996, and I remember the first time I played it at my studio room at my yaya’s, for I had started living with her full time a couple of years earlier. How evocative! Now that I remember, it was one of these winter dark evenings. I was sitting in the armchair, covered with a wool blanket, with subtle light, handling the booklet with all those sick yet fascinating illustrations, not very convinced about what was gonna happen.
5 seconds of ‘Grind’ and I already knew Alice In Chains was gonna blow my mind. And it did, believe me. Personally speaking, I reckon is the perfect combination of the darkest side of Dirt with the sweet & sour beauty of Jar of Flies. Not being perhaps as hard and insane as its predecessor, truth is that riffs are heavier and more doom metal like, as in ‘Grind’, ‘Sludge Factory’ or ‘God AM’, and on the other hand, the melodic side of the album is more highlighted, with a great work on vocals, and Jerry Cantrell’s role on vocals was more important, leading in ‘Heaven Beside You’ and ‘It’s Over Now’.
Again, songs were the portrait of Cantrell’s struggle with drugs, not being capable to overcome his addiction to heroin, which, at this point, was killing him. Lyrics were related to drugs, isolation and frustration. And death. Apparently the recording was tough issue, with Staley being fucked up most of time or absent, due to heroin. Not that the rest of the band were saints, but the stage Layne was at that time was way beyond his band mates, who constantly frustrated for not being able to help him. Really sad.
From this point, the self-destruction spiral Staley went through was dragging him down and down. The band never toured to support this album, and one year after they recorded the acoustic unplugged show for MTV, with Layne, so pale and static, everybody knew his days were numbered and the end was getting close for him. But that’s another story.
If I had to choose between Dirt and Alice In Chains it’d take me long time to decide, because both are some great, and are so connected to my mood, that my decision changes every time I listen to any of them . Like heroin, I got hooked to both in an obsessive way. The struggling tone of both, leaving the musical part aside, was what we had in common. When you are a teenager, there’s a part of yourself which is constantly struggling to find its place in the world, and even though there were many good things around, I still had to fight for self-assertiveness.
This was the third and the last studio album of Alice In Chains as I like to think of them, with Layne alive. The art of creating greatness from something totally rotten it’s a skill not everybody can afford, however Alice In Chains masterly sculpted beauty from filth.
I love them.