Back in 1994, in the midst of their rising popularity, Alice in Chains released what I refer to as “an underestimated gem”- their second EP, Jar of Flies.
A mind-blowing collection of rock songs with a twist; toning it down to be more acoustic, natural yet maintaining the darkness within lyrics and production. According to vocalist, Layne Staley, “For us, it was just the experience of four guys getting together in the studio and making some music.” (Childers, 2017).
The EP consists of 7 songs that take you on a journey through the struggles of drug addiction and the band is infamous for the reason that majority of their songs are based on addiction- specifically Staley’s heroin addiction (Karan, 2014). Jar of Flies portrays this issue more intimately and calmer rather through aggression as heard on Dirt. Although every song special for its own reason, there is one song that I tend to gravitate to the most, Rotten Apple. It’s the EP’s opening song and one of my all-time favourites. It’s a song discussing how the song’s subject came to earn himself the label ‘addict.’
It begins with a beautifully relaxing yet complex bass riff. Finger-picked close to perfection and effortlessly. If the feeling of candy melting in your mouth was describable by sound, that would be it. As the bass carries through, guitar kicks in to add more rhythm and bonus harmonica cues adds rawness. Together, it creates a rustic sound, adding to the relaxing nature of the song. Cymbals slowly simmer and light drums are in to set a beat. As the instrumental continues, the song comes together.
One reason why Alice in Chains are believed to be so unique compared to their grunge counterparts is because of Staley and guitarist/backing vocals Jerry Cantrell ability to harmonise- A pair of voices meant to mix. Soon as they sing, the nature of the song evolves to be sorrowful yet tranquil. This intensifies at the chorus and begins to sound psychedelic and somewhat exotic because of the mix of happy and sad chords. It’s bittersweet and this carries on until the end.
The lyrics are woeful, short and vague, adding a hint of mystery to the mix and lots of room for listeners to interpret the message in whatever way they please and this shows how the song could spark up different emotions for everyone.
Despite all its glory, every song has flaws. The song can be repetitive and eventually sound bleak due to it being 7 minutes long with a lack of variety in riffs and chords. Spacey lyrics can sometimes be a bore too.
All in all, this is what makes Alice in Chains the phenomenal band that they are. These well-crafted elements and flaws make Rotten Apple such an outstanding piece of music because of how well every component merges together. It’s one of their more depth-filled pieces with lots of emotion and definitely one of their most popular songs on this EP.
Alice In Chains [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://static.stereogum.com/uploads/2016/10/aliceinchains-1475597070.jpg
Childers, C. (2017, January 25). 23 Years Ago: Alice in Chains Release ‘Jar of Flies’ EP. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://loudwire.com/alice-in-chains-jar-of-flies-anniversary/
Jar of Flies EP [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://img.discog.com/0RxfYPBLoP5wJHRRKDM1tC6YCL4=/fit-in/600×600//filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-379136-1152613956.jpeg.jpg
Karan, T. (2014, May 06). With Jar Of Flies, Alice In Chains unleashed an accidental masterpiece. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://music.avclub.com/with-jar-of-flies-alice-in-chains-unleashed-an-acciden-1798268299