Tag Archives: Jerry Cantrell

Album of week 17: ALICE IN CHAINS

aic aic

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.

alice in chains band

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.

 

ALBUM (EP) OF WEEK 4: JAR OF FLIES

I might sound a bit repetitive but sometimes my musical mood is unconsciously related to some kind of event or anniversary. I’m into Alice In Chains a lot lately, also recovering the old albums and EPs, some side projects such as Mad Season and Cantrell’s solo albums.

jar of flies

Yesterday it was the 20th anniversary of the release of Jar of Flies, the wonderful ep which followed their most popular album, Dirt. I remember it perfectly. To be honest my expectations were too high, as i had just discovered them thanks to Dirt, and my mind was still boiling in shock, thus reckon I was looking for an extension of the album, but this was completely  different and I felt quite disappointed. I’m stupid sometimes and I used to be even more back in the day, and more ignorant. I wanted something more metal, angry and aggressive, but Jar of Flies is a beautiful album, with deep lyrics and very introspective and depressive. I remember talking to a friend on the phone at my granny’s kitchen (how many hours I used to spend hooked on it!), telling him Alice In Chains had lost the vibe and that they would never recover the power of Dirt. Aaaah, how wrong I was!

When reading about the making of this EP, you realize it was never intended to be released on first place. It was a way to express frustration and depression after being worldwide touring with Dirt for some time and facing a rough comeback home, in the most classic way musicians do: Spending some time at the studio for the sake of making music together. But you know how these things go, and someone at the record label heard the acoustic versions of these songs and convinced the band to go on with the project. Perhaps that’s the reason why I, and many other fans, weren’t ready for a change in style, proving Alice In Chains could experiment with milder sounds and styles.

Nowadays my view of Jar of Flies has changed completely. It features several of my favorite songs of the band, ‘Nutshell’, ‘I Stay Away’ or ‘No Excuses’, and it’s the perfect vehicle to move from sick Dirt to dark Alice In Chains, both frightening, intense and heartbreaking. A smooth and brilliant transition.

On the other hand, it was released 20 years ago, I was 17 and was in my last year at high school. Music had become the most important thing in my life and guess I was finishing being a kid to become an adult, very immature and crazy, but more responsible and focused. I’m 37 now and I still keep features from that time, and music is still the most important thing in my life, I’m older, more responsible and focused, but sometimes a complete mess. Celebrating one of these anniversaries, again, confirms the passing of time again, and thinking I’ll be 38 sounds scary and fucked up at first, but I’m unable to compare myself to my old ones, because my lifestyle is very different, and my mental age reminds too young, and seeing friends and people around me, fortunately 38 doesn’t mean to be old anymore, so I prefer taking it easy.

I only hope I manage to celebrate another 20 years of Jar Of Flies.

ALBUM OF WEEK 3: DIRT

2:40am and I’m listening to ‘Rooster’. I’ve just realized I’ve barely written about one of my favorite bands, Alice in Chains, nor Dirt, one of my top 10 albums ever. It’s intolerable, yet at the same understandable. How come? Apparently this justification is contradictory, but after giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that I have to be in a certain mood to enjoy listening to this album.

alice in chains

Dirt is not easy, and I’m not talking about the music. Dirt has something not many records have, and it has to do with the essence, the attitude, and its insanity.

It was fall 1993, when I was first introduced to it. I had heard of the band, knew few singles, but hadn’t dug into their stuff yet, mainly because I couldn’t afford buying a CD as I do now, and second because I didn’t know anyone who liked them and could encourage me to give Dirt a try. Until he turn up, and described it as one of the most overwhelming albums ever recorded under the most terrifying influence of hard drugs. Impossible to resist the temptation I had to listen to such threat for my ears and my innocent mind. Drugs were a taboo and something really out of my scope, so in some way this was kind of bait. As soon as I gathered some dough I went straight to the record store and got y copy, which is still with me.

I remember the first time I listened to Dirt at my grandmother’s (I was living with her already), in my study room. I was sitting on the armchair motionless, doing nothing but getting pervaded with those guitars, those stunning melodies of Staley and Cantrell, and that dose of pain and anguish so present in every second of the album. It was a devastating experience. too much intensity I wasn’t used to. After that I called my friend to tell him I had listened to it, and when he asked me about how I was feeling, I confessed I was scared.

Think about it. Song titles such as ‘Junkhead’, ‘God Smack’, ‘Sickman’, ‘Rain When I Die’ were completely opposed to the will to live of a teenager. I was in shock.

It took me few days to put myself together, musically speaking, and play Dirt again. Those following  hearings finally got me hooked, as the finest heroine or any super addictive drug would do, and since then (classic) Alice In Chains and I have been together.

As I’ve said before, I have to be in a special mood to listen to this album. I’m in that mood lately, exhausted, frustrated, stressed  and mentally blocked. Dirt is like a fix, not exactly  of happiness, just the opposite, but for some weird reason it works as a pain killer and helps to feel relief.

ALBUM OF WEEK 9: FACELIFT

Every time Alice in Chains are mentioned inevitably everybody thinks of Dirt, the album which drove them to a more mainstream commercial success, and in my case, my first crush on the band, in first place.

Alice In Chains is in my top 5 all time favorite bands ever (Layne Staley era, please). I’m not sure whether I told you I got acquainted with them thanks to a very convincing recommendation coming from a special friend, who described Dirt as an overwhelming experience, an album written and recorded under the influence of the most threatening drugs. I was 17 and he was 26. Needless to say I was fascinated by that definition. And of course, this guy was absolutely right. Dirt is awesome.

I’d have trouble deciding which album is my favorite, because depending on my personal circumstances I change my mind a lot. I think of the self titled album, with the tripod legged dog as my favorite, but then I fall in love with Jar of Flies, when I’m depressed or angry I’m in need of Dirt or the Unplugged so…I don’t know.

If you observe, I haven’t mentioned their debut album, Facelift, because it took me some time to get used to it on one hand, and because I want to focus on it right now, as I’ve been listening to it intensely lately, to balance and give a break to my current addiction to Clutch.

facelift

I find Facelift a particularly underrated album. Most bands have their tops, no doubt about it, but if you dig into AIC’s history, theirs was a pretty fast ascending career, and not only the talent of the combo formed by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell had to do with it, but also the support of MTV by adding Man in a Box to their regular programming was key to their success. In barely 2 years, AIC were on tour supporting Van Halen, Iggy Pop, Anthrax, Megadeth

This album is not one I think of in first place, but when I pull the CD out of the shelf and start playing it, I always have the same feeling. It is a masterpiece. And not only because of Man in a Box, which is super powerful and catchy, but also because Sea Of Sorrow, We Die Young, Bleak the Freak or It Ain’t Like That…Their sound is more metal, with riffs more present than in later albums.

And then, there’s Love Hate Love to be highlighted separately due to its perfection and intensity. Really, Staley’s desperate yelling in anger is insane, Staley’s guitar solo is killer, always getting me goose bumps. There’s a very dark and twisted song, suffocating and heart-rending. Must admit at certain point in my life I felt close to the idea this song transmits: anger after being cheated. You know, a case of “I love you but I’d kill you right now, you’ve ruined my life and I’m frustrated because there’s nothing I can do” kind of thing.

aic

Winter is hard to endure when bad weather is kicking, and the soundtrack chosen usually reflects my state of mind. Powerful moments followed by depressing stages. Facelift suit perfect. Fortunately Spring is about to arrive, and even though is quite unstable, the warming sun is healing, and Clutch are ruling my world now.

Have a great week!

ALBUM(S) OF WEEK 17 – SATURATION/BOGGY DEPOT

This week is being a bit weird in general, got the feeling I’ve been a bit erratic, although I haven’t done anything remarkable. Beside weather is so unstable sometimes I’ve been a bit down, in a melancholic state. Spring sucks in this sense…yet I’ve managed to cope with it, focusing on writing and listening to music, what would I do if music didn’t exist? Most likely I’d be a piece of boring shit.

Anyway, again subject about choosing the album of the week has come to my mind. Sometimes I know for sure which one should be, but I think because lately I’m listening to such good stuff and my mood swings very often, it’s getting terribly difficult to decide.

Thus this time there are gonna be two albums of the week, both classic and essential in my life.

SATURATION – URGE OVERKILL

These guys are so cool! The mass completely ignores them despite their hit single included in Pulp Fiction soundtrack, Girl, you’ll be a woman soon, but they are sooo good!

Yet I can recall TV appearances here in Spain. Once poor Nash Kato had problems with his playback (playback sucks, by the way!) caused by his microphone stand and the mic going its way…terrible moment!

The synonym most accurate for this band would be ELEGANCE. And the only definition for this album is PERFECTION.

Choose any song and you’ll love it. Kato’s voice is so charming, songs are so varied, no matter whether it’s Erica Kane or Dropout…they’re fantastic.

If I had to choose among all the songs, personal favorite I reckon to be is Positive Bleeding, with a sentence that from time to time comes to my mind, and can apply to myself: I live my life with no control in my destiny. Then you have Sister Havana, Tequila Sundae

I saw them on stage few years ago at Azkena Rock Festival and were amazing. And nw, all fans are still celebrating they’re back in business, releasing a new album, Rock&Roll Submarine, and tour having a date confirmed in September at another festival, together with D-Generation. Don’t know how I’ll make it, but won’t miss them at all.

BOGGY DEPOT – JERRY CANTRELL

When I’m this state of temporary nostalgia, I usually resort to this album to ease such feeling. And it’s not precisely because it’s a cheerful album, just the opposite, it’s quite dark and sad.

One of my top 5 favorite bands ever is Alice in Chains. I got to know them thanks to an old acquaintance who was very important when I was 17 and I reckon left his mark on what I’m now (Felix, wherever you are, you were cool, man, but an asshole too. I’ll always give you the credit for this). He was really passionate about the band and I’ll never forget the way he described their second album DIRT, written under the influence of the most terrible and threatening drugs, yet amazing. And he was right. With such review I went straight to the record store and got myself a copy. Since then, I felt in love with that combination of metal tunes with amazing melodies created by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, so evocative and scary at the same time.

After Staley left us 9 years ago, Cantrell started his solo career releasing Boggie Depot, a compilation of songs reflecting sadness, nostalgia and personal nightmares. I felt a bit reluctant to check it out until another friend of mine told me he was completely hooked up on it, so I gave it a chance. I’m so glad I do trust some people taste and advise…

Starting from Dickeye, the first four songs are none of this world, still they all are great. Between, My Song…wow! Priceless!

When listening to this album you realize Cantrell is a genius and was the actual brain of Alice in Chains, but of course Layne’s charisma and amazing voice and attitude left the musician’s wonders hidden a bit aside.

Check him out for the proof…