Friday, July 27, 2012

Alice in Chains - "Would?"


Dirt was one of the first compact discs I ever owned. One of those early pieces of music that continues to transition you from one genre of music to another. In order to hide any evidence of poser-dom I had recently thrown away all my C&C Music Factory and Color Me Badd cassette tapes and replaced them with Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Alice in Chains’ Dirt came soon afterwards as a 13th birthday present from an older friend and neighbor. I hadn’t gotten into the harder stuff yet, and what I now realize was a covert attempt to push an elder friend’s tastes on an impressionable new teenager had worked. While Dirt, a record revolving around heavy drug addiction performed by disturbed drug addicts, was far too bleak and depressing for a kid of my age, it did open up the door to some of the harder rock I would get in to soon afterwards (Helmet, Ministry, Rage Against the Machine). And there was “Would?”, a ridiculously incredible hard rock single that found the band firing on all cylinders. Lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell wrote it, and Layne Staley, with that dark, raspy voice so many awful bands would soon imitate, fleshes out the vocals. “Would?” is also a snapshot of a 90’s trend that has been mostly lost in the new age of pop/rock; great songwriting and technical prowess. Half-step tuned down guitars flourish over the low bass notes the song sits upon while Sean Kinney supplies hefty amounts of bassy percussion and a gripping, head-banging fill section in the song’s outro. While I no longer carry the entire record as an adult, “Would?” remains one of my favorite tracks of the 90’s. And Alice in Chains may not net you many style points, but those two underrated, soft-rock releases (Sap, Jar of Flies) that bookend Dirt suggest Alice in Chains are more innovators of the era than grunge-fad flameouts.

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