Much like Ozzmosis, Alice in Chains’ self titled album holds a special place in my heart for being the album that really introduced me to the band. I had heard a lot of them on radio before I bought it, but this was my first full album of Alice. I can’t even remember why I bought this one first instead of Dirt or Facelift. I would assume it was because of the wicked cool neon green jewel case and the awesome artwork as much as for the strength of the song “Again.”
A few months ago I read a great post at Play it Loud Forever reviewing Facelift that talked about this album quite a bit. I can’t help but agree with a lot of what he says. I love the symbolism of three legged dog representing a quartet that was functioning as a trio. I’ve always been a big fan of processed and distorted vocals (Ministry, NIN, Butthole Surfers), but coming from the guy who sang “Man in the Box” it is a little bit of a disappointment.
The interesting thing about Layne Staley taking a step back on this album was that it let Jerry Cantrell take the reigns and showed everyone that AIC could continue without Staley. I know it’s hard for some people to stomach William DuVall, but I think without the strength of songs like “Grind” and “Heaven Beside You” I would also have trouble believing that anyone else could be the lead singer for AIC. The Dog Album showed Jerry Cantrell as more of a bandleader than on Sap or Dirt.
The Cantrell songs are the best part of the album. “Grind” kicks thing off with a simple repeated riff and some awesome wah drenched leads. “Heaven Beside You” was always a favorite for that great guitar and vocal melodies. The closer “Over Now” always blew my mind for it’s use of an open tuning and that crazy descending riff.
And really Staley contributed to this album (9/12) more than in the past. He only wrote lyrics to 5/12 on Facelift and 7/13 on Dirt. And his contributions here are just as great. “Again” was always a favorite for the scratchy vocal part. According to the AIC biography, Toby Wright asked Staley if he was really going to leave those “doot doots” in the chorus. I can’t imagine the song without them. I really like Staley’s solo contribution “Head Creeps” but I think the star of that song is probably drummer Sean Kinney. “God Am” is a pretty cool tune. I love the stabs in that guitar riff and the bong hit that starts off the song.
I’m pretty sure my favorite is “Shame in You.” I love the mellow note bends and soulful singing. I can’t believe that tune wasn’t a single or didn’t at least make an appearance on Unplugged.
“Sludge Factory” lives up to it’s name with a sludgy guitar riff. “Frogs” is a pretty cool track, but it goes on for too long for my taste. Both songs suffer from long rambling endings. “Brush Away” and “So Close” aren’t very strong and the “Nothin’ Song” does indeed stick in your head like peanut butter on the brain, but it’s not one of AIC’s best.
While this is probably AIC’s weakest album, it still rocks harder than anything Candlebox ever put out. You could do worse than adding this to your collection.