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I can honestly say this is one of the greatest albums I have ever listened to. Its such a shame that when I mention the name 'Alice In Chains' to people, the usual reply I get is 'who?' or occasionally the witty comment about a vision someone has in their head from the bands name.
Its fair to say music a lot of new music in the 'alternative' genre is crap, but it is also fair to say that a lot of small bands have great potential and grunge is starting to make a comeback. Whenever you talk about grunge music people suddenly think of Nirvana, and their album 'Nevermind', but personally I think Alice In Chains 'Dirt' is a far better album, and I think that any alternative music fan should give this album a listen.
The track list on the back of the album is actually wrong, because there in an interlude track, so here is the correct track listing incase you buy the album and get confused:
1 Them Bones 2 Dam That River 3 Rain When I Die 4 Sickman 5 Rooster 6 Junkhead 7 Dirt 8 Godsmack 9 Hate To Feel 10 Iron Gland 11 Angry Chair 12 Down In A Hole 13 Would?
My dad managed to get me a copy of this excellent album in the HMV sale for just £5! I would suggest checking HMV, they sometimes have it at this price even when there isnít a sale on, if the album is priced at more then £10 then it is best trying Ebay (Iíve seen copies going for about £6, sometimes even less!).
The band members of Alice In Chains have been through a lot, and had a lot of personal problems;
Layne Staley, main vocalist (who also plays guitar on this album) died from a drug overdose in 2001.
Jerry Cantrell, main guitarist & lyric writer, and founding member of the band, is still trying to come to terms with the death of Staley. Cantrell has released some awesome solo albums, but is no longer with any of the labels he released his albums with, I hope he finds a new label and releases soon!
Mike Starr, bassist on the album, left the band after this album because of drug troubles, he was replaced by Mike Inez.
Sean Kinney, Drums, has been with the band on all of their releases and worked with Cantrell on some of the tracks on his solo album 'Boggy Depot'.
One of my favourite aspects of the band is their excellent lyrics. A lot of thought has been put into all of there songs, and this is reflected by this excellent album.
Them Bones is the opening track from the album, written by Cantrell, it is about death and feeling so down that you feel dead. Thatís enough to put you off, AIC are clever how they deliver the message and to most people this would just seem like a rocking track, its only after you put thought into the lyrics that you see how dark they are. This is true of most of the bands tracks.
Dam That River is also written by Cantrell, and has a guitar-wheeling and hard drumming intro, this is one of the tracks best played loud. Again if you look into the lyrics you will see this song has nothing to do with a river or a dam, thatís just one interpretation of it. It is actually about a conflict between two people.
Rain When I Die is written by the whole band, and is about an old relationship, but to someone who couldnít car what the lyrics are about, this has a great loud chorus which you will enjoy.
Sickman. This track experiments with a wide range of bizarre guitar sounds and is written by Cantrell and Staley. It is about feeling sick inside, as if you feel insane, but if you know your insane then surely you arenít? I would advise looking through the lyric booklet/poster with the album the first time you listen to the CD. 'What the hell am I/ Leper from inside/ Inside Wall of peace/ Dirty and diseased'.
Rooster is a powerful track. I asked a friend who is into the new manufactured rap/metal to listen to it and he said it was awful. This reassured me that it is an excellent track, but who needs reassuring? Its starts of very calm and breaks into heavy moments. It is about Jerry Cantrellís father, Jerry Cantrell Snr AKA 'The Rooster', and his time in the Vietnam war. Staley sings as if he was Cantrellís father in the War thinking to himself. Iíve seen some of the video to this track which features war footage and it is very sickening. This is an awesome track, and one which will make you think about how shit war really is.
Junkhead is written by both Cantrell and Staley and is about drug abuse. Unlike artists like Eminem and Linkin Park, these guys actually do write from experience and donít make it up. One of my favourite verses in the whole album comes from this song 'Seems so sick to the hypocrite norm/ Running their boring drills/ But we are an elite race of our own/ The stoners, junkies and freaks'. Another favourite line from his track is 'If you let yourself go and opened your mind, youíd be doing like me, And it aint so bad'
Dirt is the title track, and is another joint effort from Cantrell and Staley. The lyrics to this are very depressing/ suicidal, Iíve always imagined its about an ex-girlfriend but the song could me about anyone 'You, you use your talent to dig me under, and cover me with dirt' It shows that words and actions can cause people to crack and is what causes people to commit suicide.
Godsmack is another Layne/ Cantrell track and another drug-related song. At first you would think the key word in the title is 'God', but this song is actually about 'Smack' and it is best summed up from the closing line 'And God's name is smack for some'. This song isnít trying to encourage drug use though, it is showing the effects of drug abuse.
Hate To Feel is the first song on the album written entirely by Staley, its heard to work out what the song is about, but I would guess from the verse 'I can see, yeah (Wish I couldnít see at all)/ I can feel, yeah (Wish I couldnít feel at all)/ Hate to see (wish I couldnít see at all)/ Hate to feel (wish I couldnít feel at all)' that this song is about not being happy about the world around you.
The next track, Iron Gland, is the interlude track which messes up the track listing and is an unnecessary addition to the album. It isnít a song, just a weird laugh and I donít think they should have bothered including it on the album.
Angry Chair is the only other track (other than Hate To Feel) written entirely by Staley, and youíll enjoy this track when it gets into the main chorus, the vocals are hard hitting at first, but are softer in the main chorus.
My favourite track of the album is Down In A Hole, one of my favourite songs, the vocals are calm, even when they get louder. Its about feeling small and one of my favourite lines of the song is 'I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied'. Written entirely by Cantrell, this is an excellent song, even if your not a fan of this kind of music its worth borrowing the album and listening to this track!
Would? Every album has to come to an end, and this is a good track to end with. In the UK this is one of the few tracks still getting played on MTV2, and also there only song to get into the top 20 chart in the UK.
Four tracks from this album have got into the UK Top 40;
Would? #19 Them Bones #26 Angry Chair #33 Down In A Hole #36
The album was released in 1992, but I donít think the songs have aged, I prefer them to all the new bands on the alternative scene at the moment.
Nicely reviewed - Rooster's one of my favourite all time tracks - Tell yourfriend to listen to again and again until he gets its genius - And just to join in the other comments it is better than Nevermind ...
tuftie 08.08.2006 14:57
Good review. No way is this better than Nevermind (or Badmotorfinger).
vicki.lyon 09.03.2006 19:52
Really well set out review. Contains plenty of information.
Alice In Chains: Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell (vocals, guitar); Michael Starr (bass); Sean Kinney (drums). Additional personnel: Tom Araya (background vocals). Recorded in 1992. Brutal and hard but exciting and surprisingly melodic, DIRT made Alice In Chains national stars in 1992 after being around the Seattle alternative rock scene for many years. They produce a blindingly together sound, with the bass of Mike Starr able to switch between following the bass drum beat and cloning Jerry Cantrell's guitar note for note, albeit a few octaves lower. They have such polish that they are often reminiscent of the heyday of Led Zeppelin. Lyrically they plow the familiar angst furrow with tracks such as 'Junkhead', 'Sickman' and 'God Smack'. Equally satisfying are 'Them Bones' and 'Rooster', which saw them start in a direction that led to Jar Of Flies two years later.
Vox - 8 - Very Good - "...At their best guitarist Jerry Cantrell's towering riffs and singer Layne Staley's impassioned caterwaul make for a dramatic, vital dose of New Metal..." Spin - Recommended - "...There's a brutal, though troubling, honesty in the lyrics...as a means of cutting yourself open and letting the listener look inside, Alice In Chains has certainly spit out a mouthful..." Entertainment Weekly - "...The pain and insight that went into these 12 songs make Alice In Chains shine above and beyond most of its Seattle neighbors..." - Rating: A Alternative Press - "...a big leap forward from 1990's FACELIFT. Where the latter was buried deep under water, DIRT surfs with abandon..." Q - 4 stars out of 5 - "...DIRT's layered harmonies and fashionable nihilism transformed AIC from sludge metal also-rans to short-lived stars of the post-grunge landscape..." Entertainment Weekly (10/16/92, p.76) - "...The pain and insight that went into these 12 songs make Alice In Chains shine above and beyond most of its Seattle neighbors..." - Rating: A Spin (11/92, p.114) - Recommended - "...There's a brutal, though troubling, honesty in the lyrics...as a means of cutting yourself open and letting the listener look inside, Alice In Chains has certainly spit out a mouthful..." Q (2/02, p.120) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...DIRT's layered harmonies and fashionable nihilism transformed AIC from sludge metal also-rans to short-lived stars of the post-grunge landscape..." Vox (12/92, p.63) - 8 - Very Good - "...At their best guitarist Jerry Cantrell's towering riffs and singer Layne Staley's impassioned caterwaul make for a dramatic, vital dose of New Metal..." Alternative Press (3/93, p.40) - "...a big leap forward from 1990's FACELIFT. Where the latter was buried deep under water, DIRT surfs with abandon..."