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Facelift

Alice In Chains

1990

AIC's debut album has always been my personal favorite from the band.  It features their best song ("Man In A Box") and also has more variety musically compared to their future albums, at least in terms of tempo (there's actually a couple of upbeat numbers)...that said, as with their other albums, it fails to reach the level of greatness, and that's just because of the very nature of AIC's sound...I've always liked it, but if you're down in the mud, depressed, and strung out all the time, it's going to keep you music stuck in the mud too...AIC made great songs but only good/above average albums, and this is another example of that...it's good, but not great...

8.2

Dirt

Alice In Chains

1992

This is a classic grunge album, and although a lot of people consider to be AIC's best, I've always found it a bit of a chore to listen to straight through in one sitting.  I blame that on the middle section of the album, in which all the songs tend to get sucked down into the proverbial muck that embodies the sound of this album.  That said, the strengths of the classic songs on this album more than make up for the more pedestrian numbers...a lot of great songs, but overall just a pretty good album when taken as a whole.

8.0

Jar of Flies

Alice In Chains

1994


Though only an EP featuring just 7 songs, Jar of Flies is Alice In Chains' most affecting and consistent album.  Although each of their albums had their own share of classic songs, there was also usually a fair amount of filler that held them back from being truly great (at least to my ears).  That's not really the case with Jar of Flies, as each of these songs are pretty engaging in their own right, or they at least seem to fit within the broader mood/vibe of the album.  Obviously Layne Staley had a lot of personal demons to deal with, as he would eventually lose his long battle with heroin several years later, but Jar of Flies seems to offer his most sincere set of songs in relation to his addictions and pain.  It cuts to the heart of it. 

These songs seem more personal, more naked, and as a result more affecting and genuine.  That's probably because the overall sound here is much more melodic and subdued.  There's not that much menacing or brooding going on here.  As a result, Jar of Flies feels more honest and sincere than their prior outings.  Not that Layne Staley ever really exuded any sense of insincerity, but their prior material was so heavily cloaked in thick, grungy darkness, the riffs and sonic density of those albums somewhat overshadowed the real and genuine pain Layne was dealing with.

That pain is best displayed on Jar of Flies.  It doesn't have the nasty riffs and large sound of some of their other albums, but again, it just feels the most penetrating, the most honest, the most naked.

R.I.P. Layne Staley.

8.5

Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains

1995

Alice In Chains' last album with Layne Staley is pretty disappointing.  Aside from the infectious "Again", and the somewhat dreadful "Heaven Beside You" there's really nothing else on the album that stands out.  Nothing that rises above the meanderingly underwhelming murk.  By this time, Layne Staley's herion addiction was starting to take it's toll on him and the band, and this being their final album is a reflection of that. 

7.4

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