Saturday, June 04, 2011

Blast from the Past: Jar of Flies

Title:  Jar of Flies (Amazon, Last.fm, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Alice in Chains (Official, Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

I must admit that I was never a huge fan of Alice in Chains.  I liked most of their stuff that got played on the radio and loved their contribution to the Singles soundtrack (“Would”) and even though we owned a couple of their albums at various times, I never really listened to any of them with any regularity, except for Jar of Flies. 

The Jar of Flies EP was released in 1994 and was a departure for the band that had become known for its metal meets grunge rock sound (though I would argue that the only reason that the grunge label was applied to Alice in Chains was because they were from Seattle; they were more of a metal / alternative crossover act).  Jar of Flies experimented with slower songs, acoustic guitar, and melody in ways that their previous releases had not.  This was the release that really showcased the potential range of this band.

The opening track, the seven minute “Rotten Apple” is a ballad with a funk influenced sounding bass line and heavy effects riddled guitar.  The next song, “Nutshell,” is a ballad that opens with acoustic guitar but transitions to electric for the solo.  The next is two tracks, “I Stay Away” and “No Excuses,” were the singles from the EP.  Both received fairly extensive airplay on radio and MTV (yes at one time Music Television actually played music).  “Whale & Wasp” comes next, a haunting instrumental that uses acoustic and electric guitar and either cello or violin (or possibly both).  Next is the song that is not only my personal favorite that the band ever recorded but also what I consider to be their best song, “Don’t Follow.”  Sung mostly by guitarist Jerry Cantrell “Don’t Follow” is an intense acoustic ballad that deals with issues of personal independence.  I’m still amazed that they didn’t perform this song when they appeared on MTV Unplugged.  The EP closes out with “Swing on This” which holds true to its name by including elements of swing. 

Jar of Flies I think is often overlooked and underappreciated by fans of Alice in Chains because it deviated so much from their standard formula.  I could be wrong in this impression since I haven’t followed the band and Jar of Flies is their only release that I’d want to have some kind of copy of (at the moment I have a burned copy that I made from a CD that I had purchased and sold when I was in need of some cash).  For those who are fans of ‘90s mainstream alternative rock bands (and yes I know that is a complete oxymoron but you know what I’m talking about) this is a great CD to have because it shows a band daring to spread their wings a bit.      

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