Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: New Alice In Chains Will Fuck You Up

A lot's happened since Alice in Chains released their last, self-titled album in 1995. One can argue that Jerry Cantrell is probably responsible for bands like Staind and Puddle of Mudd giving way to bands like Nickelback and Shinedown, polluting my once enjoyable rock stations with the musical equivalent of dogshit. Because let's be honest, every song any of these bands has ever played is such a blatantly obvious imitation of Cantrell on his worst day. And to make things worse, Cantrell actually did go on tour with Nickelback. Oy vey.

So it's a testament to AIC that throughout all the years, they've remained one of those bands that's just fucking cool to be a fan of. Any time you see someone else playing Alice at a party, in a car, where ever, there's always a moment where you have that possible exchange of: "Chains?" "Fuck yeah dude," followed by a mutual nod. Cantrell could have Axel'd on but chose not to, opting to explore some solo stuff and projects with Ozzy Osbourne, and there's some respect to be given for such a mentality.

But, alas, things change. And now we have Black Gives Way to Blue. With William Duvall replacing Staley, and I have to say, he's got some fucking nerve. It takes balls to take on the job of being the replacement for one of the most legendary voices in rock history and maybe the most messed up non-Cobain grunge figure from the 90's. When I originally heard years back that Cantrell and Co. decided they were moving forward as AIC without Layne, I scoffed, even in the face of those who told me that he was holding his own at live shows, and I'm fairly certain that I wasn't alone in that assessment.

To Duvall's credit, he basically makes anyone who considered such nonsense feel like an asshole. He makes Alice's sound his own while staying true to the traditional flavor of the band, really belting out some great vocals, particularly on Last of My Kind. There's clearly some shit that they've worked through on this album; namely learning how to play as if Layne was still there with a different voice leading the charge. Cantrell's guitar sounds solemnly pissed off throughout mostly everything, as usual, and Elton John even chips in with some piano work on the title track to close out the album.

It's crazy to say it since Staley isn't on the album, but this really is vintage Chains. What's even crazier is that the strength of this album is exactly what the strength of the band used to be; the vocal harmonies between Layne/Duvall and Cantrell, combined with guitar work that matches the lyrical content of each song effortlessly. There's clearly a few tracks here that sound right out of 1995, and I have to admit, it's too cool to hear these guys playing together on a record again. This isn't groundbreaking music and probably won't make Pitchfork's top albums of the year, but who gives a shit. If you loved this band in the 90's, you'll really get a kick out of this album. And in the end, that's really all that matters.

Grade: B+

Anyways, as usual, here's a few of my favorites.

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