Tag Archives: Layne Staley

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 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!

ONE OF THOSE SAD DAYS WE REMEMBER…

April the 5th a sad day for music in general and rock in particular. Many sad events have occurred on such date.

Last news is that Jim Marshall has just passed away, at his home in Milton Keynes. Sure his last name sounds familiar, as he was the responsible for Marshall amplification, and the popular and established brand. The most curious remark related to the Father of Loud, was that he focused on his research of guitar amplification in order to find a way that guitar sounded over his drums. And Hell if he did! His contribution to rock is priceless, and his loss is a sad one for everyone in bizz and rock fans in general.

18 years ago Kurt Cobain shot himself to death in Seattle. It took 3 days to find his dead body and a suicide note at his home in by an electrician.

I remember the day we heard the news, it was Saturday, so we celebrated our particular homage at the pub we used to hang out every weekend, Devizio. Never so many Nirvana songs were played that evening, and never did we headband nor dance so enraged. Although I’ve never been a diehard fan of the band, and didn’t particularly like Cobain much, his death was shocking. On the first anniversary of his death, a tribute mini festival was celebrated in Zaragoza, and my band The Brain Farmers, was invited to participate. We covered Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, and played our own tune dedicated to the singer named Asking Cobain. We played for approx 400 people, and the audience seemed quite enthusiastic. Really, it was a blast. The band was terrible.

Investigations concluded his act was just suicide, and I never believed Courtney Love was involved in his death as part of a conspiration as it’s sometimes been questioned, yet I can’t help wondering whether he had to end like this or it was a fatal mistake. Cobain seemed to be demanding attention all the time… I don’t know.

Although I was really impressed by Cobain’s death, I felt absolutely shocked and devastated 8 years after, when the sad news of Layne Staley’s death caused by overdose, hit me. To add more drama, the detail of the body dead for two weeks till it was found by someone was the proof that the lead singer of Alice in Chains’ was more isolated than suspected.

We all knew Staley was fucked up, and despite  the rumors talking about the struggle to rehab, heroin was too powerful and influential over him, in all senses and for many years. You just have to pay attention to Dirt lyrics to understand what drugs meant to the band, and especially to the singer.

The amazing unplugged performance for MTV, confirming the decrepit and weak condition of the singer, breaking a very long inactive period, made all the fans to lose hope, and start having the strong feeling that Layne was not to last too long.

No matter you have negative thoughts of future. When those become real, you still feel like shit. We knew something bad was going to happen, yet when terrible news was spread, an infinite sadness invaded many of our hearts. It was a terrible loss.

I might sound to dramatic here, but let me make a point here, there’s no day I don’t have a thought related to Alice in Chains, and consequently to Staley.

This has been the song I’ve thought of, when I’ve been reminded of this sad 10th anniversary. It’s more Cantrell’s but I find it full of meaning.