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Global Domination | Class 6(66) | Alice In Chains: Jar of flies

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Class 6(66)

Alice In Chains: Jar of flies

11/12/08  ||  Daemonomania

Released: 1994

Introduction

Layne Staley: “They gave him two jars full of flies. One of the jars they overfed, the other jar they underfed. The one they overfed flourished for a while, then all the flies died from overpopulation. The one they underfed had most of the flies survive all year. I guess there’s a message in there somewhere. Evidently that experiment had a big impact on Jerry.”

Uh, yeah. This EP came out in between “Dirt” and the self-titled album, and doesn’t sound much like either. But as any fan of the band can tell you, this short collection of music helps define a whole ‘nother aspect of what AIC were all about. “Jar of flies” is the type of music that will stick with you. Like the experiment mentioned above. Only much less disturbing.

Songwriting

9. This is the softer side of Alice. Some of the songs are more dark and droning (like “Rotten Apple” and “Nutshell”), some are more light and sorrowful (“No Excuses” and “Don’t Follow”), and then there’s the oddball “Swing on this” with a bit of a jazzy, improvised and humorous feel to close things up. So a good amount of variation while mostly maintaining a haunting atmosphere. There’s even a fucking harmonica in here. Damn.

Production

10. Sounds just about perfect to me. Big label equals big money to make everything sound wond’rous. I for one think the AIC “Unplugged” album is pretty dismal, but that might just be because Staley is slumping around half dead throughout most of it. Instrumentally, of course, the Chainz do a fine job live. If that’s how they sound unplugged, then I guess it ain’t hard to have that talent translate onto wax.

Guitars

8. I heard someone say that Jerry wasn’t a great guitarist, and I guess if you put him head to dead head with Stevie Ray Vaughn he might be in some trouble. But for the style that they play, a semi-metallic grungy mellow acoustic jamboree, I think he excels. The instrumental “Whale and wasp” is full of fantastic fretwork, and the rest of the disc ain’t too shabby either. “Jar of flies” has filthy eggsacks bursting with riffs you’ll instantly be able to place, just upon hearing two seconds of any track.

Vocals

10. The layte grayte Mr. Staley himself. With a bundle of backup from Mr. Cantrell. Not until listening to Cantrell’s solo stuff did I realize how close their voices can be. But you’ll always know its Layne when the two of them are trading off vocal lines. In a humble opinion, I think Staley was the best vocalist of the grunge era – something about the way he sings defined his tragic personality perfectly. Just listen to him belt out, “I staaaaay awaaaaay” over some orchestration and tell me you ain’t feelin’ it. And the trademark harmonizing vocals are here in spades. Enjoy.

Bass

8. Very good, very present. Dude gets a little solo in “Swing on this,” but otherwise since the album is mostly acoustic it is his job to bring a little oomph to the rhythm section. Inez has got the skills to pay the insect-related bills.

Drums

5. Not really anything special. They’re there, they have some instances of spiff from time to time, but I think a crazy blastbeating crescendo of suffering would probably make this soft, depressing album sound like a big ball of shit. So congrats, Sean, for your excellent choices in hats and for avoiding the big ball of shit phenomenon.

Lyrics

7. Simple lyrics, but delivered with more sorrow than a million wailing Norwegian raccoons could ever muster. The typical loss, pain, drugs, and pain that make up a good portion of Alice’s output.

Cover art

6. Well, now that I’ve read Staley’s explanation above I guess the album title and front cover make a bit more sense. Their album art was definitely cooler elsewhere (“Dirt”, self-titled). It seems like Cantrell has a bit of a bug fixation – check out his track “Spiderbite” for an example. Kind of like Chris Cornell (who now sucks) and his constant mentioning of snakes. Anyway, it doesn’t make the cover more pleasant looking or indicative of what awaits you inside. Something Opeth-y would have been better. And there’s a lot of orange. But we all know orange is fuckin’ metal.

My buddy always jokingly refers to this as “Bucket of bees,” which I guess would have been a good follow-up with twice as many tracks. Or a good description of the Vader guitar-sound.

Logo

6. Backwards, written in what might be fly droppings or innards. Must have taken some effort to get that inside the jar. AIC always had a good but not outstanding logo. The little mushroom-thing they made out of the letters AIC in “Dirt” was awesome though.

Booklet

4. For having the lyrics, I thank you. And some very odd pictures of the band on a big fly eye. Nice sunglasses, Layne. Now give them back to Paris Hilton. Or Bono.

Overall and ending rant

10. Why the hell did these guys reunite and tour? Blasphemy. Idiocy. Anyway, this EP was the first and only to reach the Billboard #1 until it was unseated by some abortion featuring Jay-Z and Linkin Park. Oh, travesty upon travesty. That rant aside…you’d be hard pressed to find a short collection of songs that captures a mood so well. Get your greasy pulvilli on this for an unparalleled trip to soft decay and ruin.

Sure it’s not metal, but to quote Layne again, “We survived a Slayer crowd every night for about 50 days and thought we could do about anything after that.”