Friday, May 26, 2017

Tripping Down Grunge Music Alley

With the death of Chris Cornell, I decided to revisit early-to-mid-90s Seattle-born grunge music. My journey took me to Soundgarden (obviously)...with a little Audioslave thrown in there for good measure...but then to Stone Temple Pilots...and then, finally, to Alice In Chains.

Surprisingly, in the end, I became more focused on Alice than Soundgarden, though, had it not been for Cornell's death, I wouldn't have rediscovered Alice. So thanks to Chris for leading me down the rabbit hole.

In particular, I became fixated on Alice's EP from 1994 entitled "Jar of Flies". I played it from beginning to end and all sorts of memories flooded back into my mind. See, "Jar of Flies" was the very first CD I ever bought. It was the sixth grade and I had just purchased my very first Sony CD player at the local Lechmere department store. I was all excited that I had "gone CD" (from cassette tape) and I wanted my first CD purchase to be something real special. But, at 12 years old, I was more or less a music ignoramus. I had no idea what bands I even liked.

I browsed the selections of new releases at a store called "Tape World" located in North Attleboro's Emerald Square Mall. I saw that there was a new album by Alice in Chains out. I figured, shit, I loved that song "Would?" that always played on the radio circa 1992/3. Surely I would love this new Alice in Chains album.

So I purchased the album and, at first, I was a little disappointed, mainly because the entire album was...acoustic. Yuck! I wanted electric shit, man, like that "Would?" song or, wait, now I remember the other one that played on the radio: "Man in the Box". That one rocked hard, too!

But acoustic? Fiiiine, I'll give it a shot. I felt obligated to, anyway. I had spent a good fifteen dollars of my paper route money on the album and it was my first and only CD. I HAD to listen to this CD lest I waste money. I had to play SOMETHING in my new Sony CD player.

Well, the album grew on me. And grew on me. And grew some more. Listening to it today, it's almost like a soundtrack for my entire year in the sixth grade. Every single note triggers memories of my time in Eleanor Johnson Middle School...the teachers I had...the friends I hung out with...the skateboards I thrashed upon...the girls I started to crush on...the album encapsulates all those memories for me, mainly because that album was the only thing I was listening to at the time.

But did I ever give the EP the appreciation it deserved? No. I didn't. No way. I was 12 years old. I didn't know better.

Listening to "Jar of Flies" today, I'm absolutely blown away by how beautiful it is.

But I'm also blown away by how f***ing sad it is.

You can hear melancholy in every note. You can also hear the heroin that numbed the melancholy of the lead singer Layne Staley. Layne's voice drooooooones in each and every song, like it's already a ghost moaning from another dimension. He, of course, was destined to become a ghost sooner than most. He died of a drug overdose in 2002 at the young age of 34.

So it's weird. This blog should be about Chris Cornell, right? Well, it is, in a way. His death lead me to rediscover one of the first grunge-era casualties, not including Kurt Cobain. Layne went first and, more than any of the others, he embodied the depressed, toxic-blooded vibe of the grunge era. Then STP's Scott Weiland died, only a year and a half ago. Also a drug overdose. Then Chris went...suicide due to depression.

Eerily, all three of these melancholic bands were my first three CDs. "Jar of Flies" was first. But then "Superunknown" was my second. Third was "Purple" by Stone Temple Pilots. All three albums were fantastic, all born out of the grunge movement but so unique from each other as well.

Anyway, I post one of my favorite "Jar of Flies" songs below called "Nutshell". If you're in a good mood, I warn this song may make you sad. If you're already in a sad mood, this song may make you more sad. If you're in a deep state of depression and you listen to this song? Well, I gently caution you to stay away from any loaded gun or bottle of sleeping pills or especially a noose that looks strong enough to hold your bodyweight.

"Nutshell" unplugged...

"Nutshell" album version...


MATT BURNS is the author of MY RAGING CASE OF BEASTIE FEVERJUNGLE F’NG FEVER: MY 30-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR W/ GUNS N’ ROSES and I TURNED INTO A MISFIT! Check out these books (and many more) on his Amazon author page HERE.

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