A1 Great! Part lies, part heart, part truth, part garbage.

it’s been on my mind

My pal Julie opened up a can of worms with – well, really only with me, on Facebook yesterday. The topic of conversation? Alice in Chains, of course.

Julie had posted a couple of videos and identified favorites, and asked me to do the same. I started writing a bunch of stuff in that little comment box and thought, hell, I have too much to say on this topic! So, devoted A1 readers, here’s your opportunity to get acquainted with the band, and generally nod along and agree that this group, while relatively successful commercially in the 90’s, is probably is not among the three or four acts that come to mind as The Best from that time period. And that’s a shame, because, though dark – ok, down in a fucking hole dark, Alice in Chains had some great music.

Youtube has my back:

No Excuses is my favorite. The story of the on-and-off friendship between lead singer Layne Staley and guitarist and second singer Jerry Cantrell, No Excuses doesn’t really match with their more metal sound, particularly from the commercially successful Dirt disc, which would bludgeon any weak person to death, really. But this song, and the video too, have both been key to me. It works both in moments of acrimony and in distance, and one of the closing lyrics sums things up nicely:

“You, my friend
I will defend
And if we change
Well, I love you anyway”

Simple, honest, direct.

Since ‘grunge’ was more or less over by the time their fourth record came out, most people missed the eponymous release, or maybe you’d like to call it ‘Tripod’ because of the three-legged dog on the cover. Maybe I’m the only one who calls it that. Similar musically to No Excuses was Heaven Beside You:

Different message – no uplifting subtext here. “When I’m down and blue, rather be me than you.” “So, there’s problems in your life. That’s fucked up, but I’m not blind. You’re just see-through, faded, overrated, out of your mind.” Brutal. The riff from Grind felt pretty brutal too, though I think the whole thing is pretty wicked:

“Come the morning light. It’s a see-through show… what you may have heard and what you think you know.” I’ve been hitting this disc hard in the last several weeks, re-learning my appreciation for the deep cuts – Sludge Factory, Shame In You, Nothin’ Song (these are all on Youtube but not official videos, just the songs set to pictures).

Then, of course, Layne overdosed. We always knew that his lyrics came from a place of genuine addiction and hurt, but it’s so sad that we had to have proof in the form of his heroin-addicted end.

AiC took a long break after that, inevitable considering the interplay between Staley and Cantrell and their influence on the overall sound. Recently, however, the band has gotten back together, recruited a new singer and guitarist to take on some of the old songs, and released a disc last year that was much better than it had any right to be. I wish they’d have done away with the Alice in Chains name, as that band can’t ever come back, but the new band is pretty damn good. And I’d like to show you their best video thus far, but the idiots at EMI have disallowed embedding their clips, so you’ll have to click out of here to get to Your Decision, and I am reminded once again of why the music industry in general is failing in this time of unlimited opportunity for promotion and sharing in media and message.

I skipped the many videos from Dirt because it was their most successful record, commercially speaking, and though Down In A Hole and Would? and Them Bones are probably what comes to mind most easily when thinking of Alice in Chains, I would argue that it isn’t representative of the ground they covered overall. But I’d be remiss not to offer Rooster, the video that was probably best at telling a story from the time, unless you’ve hitched your wagon to Pearl Jam’s Jeremy…

And that’s what Julie and I were talking about on Facebook yesterday.

3 responses to “it’s been on my mind”

  1. Dan says:

    Your recommendation engine needs work.

  2. Roshan says:

    I happen to think that Alice In Chains was one of the brightest spots of the 90s music scene. I love this band and although they’re music & lyrics are mostly dark, they made great records. I got into the band in 1994 and have been a fan ever since. All great songs here.