Thursday, October 20, 2016

I'd Like To Fly But My Wings Have Been So Denied

I've been on a steady streak as per my promise to one podcaster - blogging weekly and including a Favourite Album post bi-weekly. That's progress after months of radio silence on this site. But this post will be a bit different. Because while I'm writing it under the guise of the favourite album series, it's more about my general long-term love for a band than about any particular album itself.

It's the age-old tale of a little girl named Kristen and her major affection for Alice in Chains.

When I was young, my older sister would make me mix tapes that I would obsess over. Yes, young folks, that says tapes. These tapes were a big part of what shaped my music tastes, and this particular mix was no exception. It would have been about '92, maybe early '93. And on this tape (which I'm pretty sure I still have somewhere), Steph had included the song "Would?". That was when this 9 year old future rambler fell ass-backwards for a band from Seattle called Alice in Chains.

So for the sake of pretending that this is a Favourite Albums post, let's call it an ode to Dirt (1992) and Jar of Flies (1994). Those albums have been with me the longest, and made the most impact. But really, this post is about the band itself. And I'd be remiss if I didn't include a note or two about Layne Staley.

Layne was the original singer, the only one I really count, who struggled with a major drug addiction and died in 2002 at the age of 34. For me, Layne is Alice in Chains. Without him, it's never been the same. Whether it's with this band or the album he did with Mad Season, he has one of the most distinctive and unique voices I've heard. And when it came to the songs he wrote (such as "Nutshell"), they give me what the young kids call "the feels". Every time.

So while the current Alice in Chains singer (William DuVall) is crazy talented and awesome, I consider it to be a different band even though Jerry Cantrell is and always has been an integral part of their specific sound. I remember when I saw their concert with the Deftones in 2010, it was strange to hear/see them play with such an upbeat person as the frontman. I actually left during "Nutshell", because it somehow came off as happy. It's not happy.

It's a Layne song, through and through.

I've been reading an Alice in Chains biography (even though I prefer to stick to autobiographies, but one does not exist. Jerry had better get on it!). I just read the part where Layne dies and, stupid as it is to admit, it brought me to tears.

It's like reading a story you already know the ending to, but it still kicks you in the chest when you get to it. Such a waste.

But the rest of their story is entertaining - it's always amused me endlessly that they technically started as a glam rock band and the rest was almost accidental, due to band-swapping, member switches, and name changes. In the end, they formed a band that has long been one of my favourites, and created songs that can dictate my moods and stir up my memories.

For some, they're just a grunge band from the 90's. For me, they're important. 

My old favourite band tshirt. It's now in a frame.
From a 9 year old kid singing along in her backyard each day to a 33 year old woman singing along while she runs her business, these albums are part of an entire life's soundtrack.

And Layne's voice is at the forefront of that soundtrack.

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