Another original article tonight…
For me, it’s unusual to be able to buy an album and love it on the first listen. There are only three artists…four at a push, who I can be sure will make me smile as soon as I hit the play button. In no particular order Bob Mould is one, Swervedriver is another, the third is who I’m going to tell you about now.
Sadly, and it’s always sad when this happens, even if it’s expected, the singer of this band came to an early demise on the fifth of April, 2002 through misadventure, I’m sure you know what I mean. Unsurprisingly the group then split up, seemingly for good. However the members were each active in a number of capacities, not least of which was as fundraisers for a bunch of good causes.
Then in 2005 the three remaining members came together to perform as a band, for a charity gig. Over the next three years they continued doing this, drafting in a number of high profile guest performers to fill the distinctively voiced original lead singer.
I was at work one day in 2009, with no idea what was about to hit me when suddenly I noticed a link someone had pasted, to a new song from an old band. The song was called A Looking In View and the band was called…
I was somewhat excited…to say the very least.
I grew up (sort of, I was about eighteen when I first heard them) listening to these guys tearing a hole in rock music and crawling through the ragged cavity with guitars from the netherworld and vocals which sounded like they were being wrought from twisted steel and shards of glass. Suffice to say I was a big fan!
I hesitantly clicked on the link and crossed my fingers, hoping that whatever they had done wouldn’t destroy all my memories of the band. After pulling on my headphones the song started and I was thrust into a new world of respect for a band who could undergo such tragedy and come back with original material as strong as anything in their previous canon.
The thirteen year hiatus in new material had, if anything, reinvigorated their lyrical and song-writing skills. Not to forget that replacing a front-man can be deleterious to a band, but with William DuVall, previously of Alice in Chains-a-likes Comes With The Fall, they had found a slightly new sound and a fantastically different type of figurehead for the group.
The first album after the reformation which was Black Gives Way To Blue didn’t really hint at the influence DuVall would have on them, however what it did have was ten pieces of heavily overdriven, raucous musical violence, and then, oddly, an ultimate track which is a duet with Mr Elton John?
My favourite track from this record is by far and away Check My Brain. It has string bends which sound too low to be possible and a fantastically cheerful [sic] chorus, which seems to suggest that anyone living in California needs to see a psychiatrist. The rest of the tracks are perhaps not as heavy but with titles like Acid Bubble and Private Hell some of them come pretty close.
What was incredible, to me at least, was that they have kept the amazing split lead vocals which defined the band in their previous heyday, Cantrell and DuVall sound like they were made for each other.
The fantastic offset harmonies continue throughout their last album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The title is a little conceited but apparently the new singer had finally been allowed to start displaying his political and religious views. All the members of Alice in Chains are staunch atheists, but never before have their views been so obviously displayed as through their new album, and especially its title track.
The song, which is track five on a dozen track, hour long symphony of grunge, verging towards their early career metal roots doesn’t pull any punches and outright tramples over religion of all kinds. The first three or four tracks are shockingly heavy, Hollow starts us off and has a fantastic riff which drags you kicking and screaming behind its vapour trail, until it stops five and a half minutes later. This album hardly lets up all the way through and by the end you can’t help but be sad that it’s all coming to a close.
Before I finish I need to tell a short story, which might give you an idea of the influence this band have had on my life and how much they have given me over the years…
Five years ago my lovely wife, who I obviously care for more than life itself, was pregnant with our first and only child. I was on my lunch break at work and had been for a walk around town. On my way back I happened to walk past Rock City, a club in Nottingham, where we used to live, which occasionally hosted interesting concerts. A new poster of upcoming dates had been pasted in an attention demanding spot and on the list was Alice in Chains.
My mouth dropped open, followed swiftly by my wallet as I walked through the door in a stunned state of consciousness and purchased a ticket. I started back to work and looked a little more closely at the entry pass I had just become the proud owner of, my eyes skipped lightly over the details until a nagging feeling made me look again.
The date on the ticket seemed very familiar, the reason being that it was my wife’s birthday, her only birthday while pregnant, and five months pregnant no less. So I had just purchased a very special ticket to a very special gig on a night which should have been very special for a completely different reason.
I called my wonderful partner and explained the faux pas and, because she is the most fantastic lady on the face of the planet she said that it would not be a problem and that I could make it up by buying her something fabulous. I believe I did!
This story explains both what Alice in Chains mean to me and why I love my wife so much.
I’m looking forward to the next album!