Monday, October 23, 2017

Fried On A Stick On A Waffle In A Burrito


Pearl Jam's reluctance to embrace the role of rock music bellwether was either disingenuous or noble, depending on whoever was giving their opinion. Kurt Cobain's suicide only intensified these debates, revealing a surplus of insensitivity and naivete in the process.

I get both sides. Pearl Jam in '94 should have been acting like Shawn Kemp to the world's Alton Lister. Album number three should have dripped nut sweat. Instead, the vibes were thoroughly bogus, to the point that Stone Gossard seriously considered blowing the 'sicle stand and taking all the bomb pops. Quick, guess which member had to go to rehab? Least it wasn't for heroin.

"Last Exit"--Lithe guitar lines for the boy with the dirty chin to color outside.

"Spin the Black Circle"--Husker Du with vastly improved production. That's not anger…an intact vinyl record is incapable of provoking enmity. No, this is pure passion. The only thing greater than the fact that this hit the Billboard top 20 is the additional fact that it won a Grammy (an honor for which Mr. Vedder was exceedingly gracious).

"Not For You"--Now, this is pissed off. Pearl Jam refuses to let anyone else take ownership of their big jar.

To treat cat scratch influence, visit your nearest, unfriendliest alley, lift your shirt up and lie stomach down.

"Tremor Christ"--Good luck trying to overcome the Holy Ghost. It ain't heavy, it's just older and larger to boot…upside your head.

"Nothingman"--Existential dread meant something different in the '90s. You'd stare at a pair of jorts and disappear into an abyss where the only thing rarer than oxygen was hope.

"Nothingman" shimmers with gravitas befitting the subject matter: the value of reciprocated love. So no, not a nothing song.

"Whipping"--Up the bacteria-ridden forth of a komodo's mouth.

"Pry, To"--A 60-watter stuck in a fixture with a maximum limit of 40.

"Corduroy"--Rankled by fashion whores, the wind 'n' dust brothers accumulate righteous disgust and catapult it into the air, trusting it will land on a deserving target.

"Bugs"--Insects, insects everywhere. Probably since someone forgot to close the screen door properly. Damnit, y'all gotta remember to grab the knob and SLAM. Don't worry about the noise; I'll take heart palpitations over flies on the edge of my plate.

"Satan's Bed"--Devilish sleight of hand. Glass will break, nails will bend, and wood will rot. The band sounds like they spent the whole day thinking of ways to cheat at a piss test.

"Better Man"--Written by Vedder while still in high school. Kinda shows, kinda doesn't. Domestic violence is a topic that splits the world into have-hearts from the have-nots pretty quickly. Giving a damn has the potential to be disastrous. Not giving a damn will always be disastrous.

Would have been wonderful if the song had ended with the promise of a better woman. Wouldn't have been authentic, though.

"Aye Davanita"--Mantra for a flamingo.

Flamingos don't need mantras, motherfuckers!

"Immortality"--I distinctly remember dreading my tenth birthday. For some reason (or reasons) trampled underfoot by the relentless parade of time, I believed that no one younger than the age of ten ever died. Once a person reached double digits, they were no longer afforded the protection of this golden shield.

This song puts me back in the yard on West Side Avenue, running barefoot, lying on my back and reshaping the clouds. I was not yet ten and thus had no cause to fear the creatures that might be scurrying amid the blades of grass.

"Stupid Mop"--Distorted audio over distorted audio. As a Sonic Youth fan, my tolerance for musical experimentation is higher than normal. But my patience for palpable self-consciousness is thinner than graphene.

Pearl Jam threw it all in the pot and lamented the lack of a self-stirring spoon. This leads to moments of exceptional frustration and satisfaction. I'm not saying they didn't deserve any invective, but accusing Pearl Jam of dishonesty is just wrong.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Screw Attack


The artistic peak of grunge is subjective. (As is the case with every other musical genre. Except for reggae, which reached its apex prior to the late 1960s.) The commercial peak is easier to pinpoint: from September 1993 to February 1994, each of the Big 4 released records that reached number one on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, selling a combined 21 million copies in the U.S. alone.

And all four happened to be fuckin' fantastic.

"Let Me Drown"--Dedicated to all the sad burlap faces moaning about haircuts. Call it "Virgin Mary Puss," 'cause it's an immaculate opening. Chugging along on a pair of pulverized ankles, fresh off a vacation in a walk-in freezer, for what more could I ask? Throw in some religious refs and the ever-mysterious "she" and ding ding, somebody come up and claim this thing.

"My Wave"--Everyone deserves their own patch of planet, free of the hassle and harassment of the greedy and grody. Oh to live within walking distance of a beach, even if only for a fourth of the year. No worries over a spot to park (be it a car on the pavement or a butt on the sand) and shell collecting to beat the band. Who are beating back pretty hard.

"Fell On Black Days"--Loneliness leads to sadness. Wait. Scratch that. Reverse. And for God's sake, put the needle back on the record where it belongs.

At least Soundgarden's "fuck me I want to curl up and blow up ala Samus Aran" songs are cheerier than Alice In Chains's, thanks to the massive egos behind them.

"Mailman"--A postal worker injects himself with clonazepam to facilitate the duties of the day. Later, he'll crush up hydrocodone to palliate the torments. A solid week this goes on, fooling his blood into thinking it's a solid, filling his mind with thoughts of power and entitlement. Whether he chooses to compartmentalize his ensuing blow-ups is anyone's guess/hope.

"Superunknown"--Sneaky, those flourishes. The chorus is one large, "but wait, there's less!" One vocal track is for what is, the other for what might be.

"Head Down"--A pink zeppelin slices the sky. Surely drugs weren't involved!

Cementing their reps as the quirkiest of the Big 4, Soundgarden show us how to live inside sand castles. (Meanwhile I can't even build one.)

"Black Hole Sun"--Not everyone knows a Soundgarden song, but when they do, it's "Black Hole Sun." Trust me, this Carvel-certified slice of psych-pop owned rock radio in '94. Over twenty years gone by, it goes out as it came in, a litany for the sourly aging.

Good Mood Jenn prefers to think of "Black Hole Sun" as a fallen prince babbling over a chest of melted treasures. Bad Mood Jenn insists that the song is proof that oblivion is the only wish worthwhile, since it's impossible to screw up.

"Spoonman"--The fact they chose this as the first single makes me chuckle. It's an ode to an actual true and living Seattle street performer who plays the actual spoons. He even shows up for a barely-discernible cameo. "Save me!" From what, dude? You're a rich-ass rock star, and he plays the spoons.

"Limo Wreck"--I dig when the band exhibits their monstrous bulk. Those lead feet are gonna trigger a dreadful avalanche, I swear.

"The Day I Tried To Live"--Living life like a James M. Cain novel means: situations go grim and filthy sans fanfare. It means wearing spiked collars, incorrectly. It means grinning while uttering the most pessimistic sentence you can imagine.

"Kickstand"--Front dropkick, more like. Can't build a sand castle, can't ride a bike, what can I do?

"Fresh Tendrils"--An excuse for Chris Cornell to take his shirt off without taking it off. Superunknown is the greatest showcase for his powers as a singer, I don't give a damn for other thoughts.

"4th of July"--Where is everybody that started loving this sizzling piece of nihilistic pig when St. Vincent said she did? Come on, hands up.

Messrs. Cornell, Thayil, Shepherd and Cameron on doomsday. We are all of us dying. Punctuality is forgotten, since time has been forsaken. This is a top 10 Soundgarden song for me. Thank you to all the artists who dropped acid so I didn't have to.

"Half"--Say what you will about Hiro Yamamoto on the mic, least he didn't bore me. Least he didn't announce his painful self-doubt to the world by drowning his voice in effects

"Like Suicide"--For years I thought "Like Suicide" was another mildly lovely dirge for the never-named "she" featured in songs since the first rock rolled. Actually, it's about a bird that Chris Cornell had to mercy-kill after it smashed into a studio window. Since he never disclosed the breed of bird, I don't know how to feel. I mean, coulda been a blue jay. Can't expect me to be distraught over that.

End it at "4th of July," Superunknown is the best Soundgarden album. They didn't though, so…it's still the best Soundgarden album.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When Going Soft Is Going Home


Band morale ran high at the start of the year, despite Layne Staley's continued deterioration and the departure of bassist Mike Starr (replaced by another Mike, Inez). Jar Of Flies is hubris on wax. Since following a platinum album with a mostly-acoustic EP went so well the first time, why not do it again?

"Rotten Apple"--When is two not superior to one? "Innocence is over." No shit, Cap'n Cookie Crisp. Uncle, uncle!

Of all fruits, the apple is the most laden with symbolism. The Bible never specifies the fruit with which Eve tempted Adam. Some Christian scholar just said, "Hey, let's say it's an apple, since everyone likes apples." How different would life be if the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden bore kumquats?

"Nutshell"--Ooh, "Fixin' To Die At The Old Fishin' Hole Rag." There's always that one guy who can make a futile night on the water sound downright Euripidean.

"I Stay Away"--A great example of how behavior we might find frightening when exhibited by a person can be entrancing in a work of art. "I Stay Away" begins on a meadow, drops into a ditch, and emerges from a swamp. The strings are the surprise sniper ensconced in the lighthouse.

"No Excuses"--"Forever" is a measurement of time that cannot actually be measured. The heart is the only clock that matters. The heart of "No Excuses"--their best song, let's be clear--is a trusty and thunderous one. Layne Staley showed Jerry Cantrell compassion when the latter was a homeless guitar player, providing him with a place to say and offering encouragement. This is not some pretty, vacuous love song with an avaricious eye. This is a brilliant assertion of brotherly affection, a pledge, a wish, in one.

"Whale & Wasp"--Nothing about this relatively brief instrumental piece lumbers or stings. Regardless, it reminds me how short the earth comes up when compared to air and water (to say nothing of fire).

Don't Follow"--Take me hoooome…Seattle rooooaaads…to the plaaaace…I left my thoooongs.

(Listen up, wearing a thong gets you in touch with the essence of the self. Take the nasty plunge.)

"Swing On This"--Li'l blues, li'l wheat gold. Shit-smeared boots and jars of dank. People tell the boys "come home," without never showing 'em why they should.

The first EP to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart and home to two of the best rock singles of the decade. I guess there really was only the one direction to go.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Half Of It


Six days after VS appeared on record store runways, an "action" shot of Eddie Vedder appeared on the cover of Time. "All The Rage," the text insisted. For a man unused to white-out lights manned by a person or persons he couldn't see with his own eyes, such an honor proved anything but. Pearl Jam valued shared ethics over professional success, a stance that while laudable on its face nonetheless provoked sneers and smirks both expected (mass media, Gene Simmons) and surprising (local media, Kurt Cobain).

The band rebelled by refusing to make any music videos for the singles off VS. For the best; no need to try and visually compete with "Rump Shaker." Audiences responded by snapping up 950,000 copies in the first week, a record that would stand for five years. 'Cause one thing about Pearl Jam fans--they ride and multiply for their guys.

"Go"--Leather gloves strike cement block. Enough screwing about. Time to bring shears to the tug of war.

Second album, second drummer. Dave Abbruzzese even contributed a guitar part! Nice one, dude. Shining on the smooth blue isn't quite as rapturous a journey as slipping on the slick pink, but who am I to nitpick? No one's in this for medals or ribbons.

"Animal"--From chipmunks to sharks, perros a los cocodrilos, animals rise and reign. The rambunctious grumblings of agitated humanoid allies is the best we can do.

"Daughter"--The last song ever heard by (at least) nine people.

Eddie Vedder had a non-creepy interest in writing from the female POV, certainly a check in his column. Any unease derives from the actual subject matter: parents whose refusal to respect their child's learning disability culminates in physical abuse. Consider the fact that the shades don't need to be lowered in some neighborhoods if you're still not bummed.

"Glorified G"--New Drummer hailed from Texas, a state where the priority chain goes: God-guns-get up 'n go. Gumption or dysfunction? Someone raised in a more "progressive" part of the country might look at a proud owner of a gun as, shall we say, short-sighted.

So imagine how Eddie took the news that New Drummer bought two firearms. Or don't, hell, he wrote a song about how he took the news. Real good one too. "Glorified G" is more jibe than screed, but fret not--that's coming.

"Dissident"--Dude shit. Aluminum cans and stick shifts. Anyone with the foresight and fortitude to resist is fine by me, mind.

"W.M.A."--I promised you an overwrought reaction to an understandably frustrating situation and I am woman who keeps promise.

Short for "White Male American," this song is to be credited for calling out white privilege in America years before strangers were suggesting check-ups to each other on the Internet. For all Vedder's corn-popping, the band (especially the 2 A's) are grooving in the pocket. It's like, I kinda wanna roll my eyes, but I definitely wanna roll my hips.

"Blood"--Why sing of it when you can drink of it? How much was drawn, I can only plead the fifth.

"Rearviewmirror"--Rescue squad's arrival ain't imminent. Plan your own escape route. Follow through.

Expand. Leave the past where it belongs. Show up to the beach with nothing but prescription drugs and sunglasses.

"Rats"--The point (that rats are preferable to people) falls apart under scrutiny. The song, thankfully, does not.

"Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In a Small Town"--After all those one-word titles, no less.

Ballad of a lingering lady. Small town life is life or Life, depending on how happy one is to serve the sentence. A small town is a place a person is born in, lives in, stuck in, struggles in, thrives in. It all depends on the individual's make-up. I find the success stories admirable and detestable. Feeling trapped in one place distorts the mind body and soul. Stay stuck long enough, you'll become an emotional Smith Island Cake.

"Leash"--Reliable stomp and spin. "We got the means to make amends."

"Indifference"--Five guys exited the studio to stare judgmentally at the sun before returning to record "Indifference." Poor Ed; hundreds of vocalists took his genuine sound* and ran with it, stumbling every third of a mile.

Pearl Jam show versatility and sensitivity throughout VS. It doesn't travel the rarefied path of Ten, but the dips don't ruin the tires.

*Not liking something doesn't make that thing fraudulent.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Baby Rock


Almost two years to the day after their sophomore album shocked those parts of the world capable of being shocked by album sales, Nirvana released In Utero. Eager to distance themselves from Nevermind, the band insisted on a producer who could capture a sound closer to their punk rock spirit. Raw, abrasive, and free of suit-pleasing frills. Better, they wound up with an engineer, in the inimitable form of Steve Albini.

Albini gained notoriety as one of the American indie scene's most irascible figures as a member of Big Black, a band that reveled in sloppy scorching satire. Then he built on his reputation by helping other bands "record" their music--don't call him a producer--while refusing to impose his own tastes or go against his own ethics. Predictably, Nirvana's label were dismayed with what they heard, fearing radio would bristle and not push any of the singles. The band caved (somewhat) and Scott Litt was brought on to mix "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies." After some additional retouches (mainly in service of vocal volume), the label had an album that met their standards.

An album that debuted at #1 on its way to five million sold (half of its predecessor). An album that played over and over as I lay supine on the carpeted bedroom floor, surrounded by lifer stains and book stacks and the music that draped everything in a cloak of royal purple with hypothermic blue trim.

"Serve the Servants"--Take yer expectations and shove it up yers, his and hers. Rarely are fuck-offs so soothing.

"Scentless Apprentice"--The first of two songs inspired by books (Patrick Suskind's Perfume) went from Kurt humoring Dave to a pitiless stomp on a stubborn snake. Those wet-witch sounds confirm: this ain't Nevermind.

(In 2013, a new mix of the album, overseen by Albini, was released. Recommended if the drums on "Scentless Apprentice" scare you--or if the vocals don't scare you enough.)

"Heart Shaped Box"--Ideally, first singles shouldn't make listeners feel as though their skin is trying to stretch itself off the bone. The last line before the chorus shouldn't be a lament that you threw away your game of Hungry Hungry Cancer Cells. You know, ideally.

(Courtney Love claims "HSB" was written in honor of her sarlacc pit. Better this than "Mexican Seafood," s'pose.)

"Rape Me"--Feels Like Defanged Snake. Never cared much for this'un. Pin a medal on my chest, I guess, I just don't see circles as squares.

"Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle"--The biography of 1930s film actress (and Seattle's own) Frances Farmer, a woman who bucked the big studios and paid the price, so appealed to Kurt that he wrote this, which rewords the eternal question: Which emotion provides greater solace, anger or sorrow?

(Susan Faludi got a shout-out in the liners, how cool is that.)

"Dumb"--A pretty face can't make up for a boxy body, guys.

"Very Ape"--Plenty of backbone, still, I so wish it flew. Yes, mammals don't have wings, but they do have imaginations.

"Milk It"--Tainted with a substance that leaves the labellum numb, "Milk It" was a wearingly bullish track even prior to April 1994.

Somewhere in the Osage Plains of Missouri, a petulant man-child with chipped teeth and mouth sores suffered a headbangers stroke.

"Pennyroyal Tea"--The unofficial "last" single. Dude, if there really were a tea that induced abortions, I'd be writing this on a gold-plated silver toilet.

Dynamic shifts in music are easy; in lyrics, not as. "Pennyroyal Tea" hurts. Who calls themselves "anemic royalty" and long to spend eternity exhaling? Someone who hates life and wants to end it while also loving life and hoping it continues. Consistent contradictions that, when collected, comprise a warning.

"Radio Friendly Unit Shifter"--Finally, Kurt embraces his inner SY fanboy. Imagine my giddiness hearing this vigorous, vulgar thing. ("Second-rate third-degree burns" is probably my favorite lyric in a Nirvana song.) Forget the cast iron skillet, here's bacon grease for your face.

"Tourettes"--Fuck as punk. If only punks fucked.

"All Apologies"--The fetal imagery in which In Utero swims fascinated Cobain even before he became a father. "All Apologies" is the logical step forward into a dazzling world of domestic euphoria, where we return (however temporarily) to a pre-verbal state. People who focus on a single line miss the whole sentence: PEACE IS ATTAINABLE, RARELY SUSTAINABLE.

In Utero would be Nirvana's final studio album. On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home, victim of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. The coroner's report estimated he had died three days prior to discovery.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Striking A Wave


The public hungry for more Neervanna got an odds 'n' ends compilation of tracks recorded between 1988 and 1991. So, so thankful my parents didn't scrutinize my musical purchases.

"Dive"--My favorite Nirvana song. The rest of Incesticide is lucky I even got around to it. Imagine the sweat dripping off a nihilistic EMT mid-CPR. I'd send streams down both legs if I ever ran into "Dive" in a well-lit alleyway with nothing in its hands.

Features Chad Channing (one of four drummers who appear throughout) and a wonderful mondegreen: "heavy long-lost signal" is better than the actual lyric, y'ask me.

"Sliver"--B-side won again. Compared to "Dive," "Sliver" has all the heft and texture of the chicken noodle soup that brightened up many a crap childhood. "Dive" is the grilled cheese by the bowl.

"Stain"--A selection from 1989's Blew EP. Something about the mixdown on that record open-hand smacks me on the sternum, then uses my attention to wink and remark, "Nirvana are a band."

Chad Channing couldn't hold Dave Grohl's electric razor, but he's still better than I'll ever be, Krist Novoselic is a tower of reasons why using a pick is cooler than Jim Nabors and why yes that is the best guitar solo in a Nirvana song.

"Been A Son"--A re-recording of another song off Blew, and an early showcase for Cobain's feminism. (His like we have not seen since, sadly.) The differences are slight yet significant--the version here is swifter, slicker. Blew's take is scuzzier, with a more prominent ass. Both of them can show up empty-handed at any party I throw.

"Turnaround"--A Devo cover from the Hormoaning EP (released in Japan and Australia only, to coincide with tours) and what an intriguing choice. "Turnaround" was the b-side to "Whip It," not even appearing on the Freedom Of Choice album. Nirvana don't do much to the material, or with it for that matter, meaning Kurt's uncanny Mark Mothersbaugh impression is the undisputed highlight.

Beats what Soundgarden did to "Girl U Want," though.

"Molly's Lips"--The first of two Vaselines covers, originally featured on Hormoaning. I was far from alone when I muttered, "Who in the illegitimate hell are the Vaselines?" Spin magazine, I recall, hipped me: a twee pop duo from Scotland that sold 77 records, the Shaggs plus heart. Their guileless tunes are pretty much the opposite of Nirvana, yet Kurt worshipped them. The range of his tastes boggled near as much as his ability to fit so snugly into a borrowed coat.

"Son of a Gun"--The better of the Vaseline covers, although I prefer the original in both cases. "Molly's Lips" is a nice time out, while "Son of a Gun" is a nicer time in. Nirvana in the midst of deep-kiss bliss is just weirdly awesome.

"(New Wave) Polly"--Stripped of the feeling that made the Nevermind version so stirring, I'm left with an appreciation for how crazy good Dave Grohl is. He can drive a car and kick the back of the drivers seat simultaneously.

"Beeswax"--A musty compilation track that reminds me to mind mine. Dale Crover cleans house by beating on every surface.

"Downer"--Tacked onto the '92 CD reissue of Bleach, a faux-outraged political song that is…um…well, it's short, relatively. Cobain was far more believable when excoriating himself or immediate family.

"Mexican Seafood"--Taken from a late 80s compilation called Teriyaki Asthma. I am hungry. No, wait, just remembered the lyrics. There goes the appetite.

Kidding--my tolerance for gross-out wordplay is high. My only bitch is that the song is scarcely long enough for me to finish my second fish taco.

"Hairspray Queen"--Worst Nirvana song? Perhaps! How dare Kurt and Krist drag my birthday buddy into this morass of pig ass and cottage cheese. If Cobain ever cut a more irritating vocal take in his life, I'd be shocked. Dude sounds like the one demented aunt who never sends you a birthday present but knows exactly where you're going wrong in your life. The guitars sound like infected pisstakes. I get it was one of their earliest recordings, but that's a shoddy excuse.

Nightfall feels like a hose-blast of frigid water after exiting a sauna. Doesn't. Justify. Shit.

"Aero Zeppelin"--Dale's drumming and the "'Sweet Emotion' slipping on someone's day-old vomit" part is all I can recommend.

"Big Long Now"--Left off of Bleach for sounding too much like the dullest parts of that album, "BLN" is a dopesick fuckboy who yells himself hoarse trying to put together a table.

"Aneurysm"--Peanut butter and tuna fish…AHHHH HAAAA.

Tobi Vail musta had some top-notch good-good. "Aneurysm" combines the playfulness of "Drain You" with the bearded brutality of "Dive." Crank it, and take someone's temperature with your tongue.

Nirvana could have released 45 minutes of belches and Gordon Lightfoot covers and gone platinum. Incesticide surpasses that admittedly low bar. In addition to containing the greatest song they ever recorded, ti's also home to the last truly great set of liner notes, wherein Kurt Cobain avers to the incantatory allure of the Raincoats and Shonen Knife and defends his wife against scurrilous media before lashing out at the chicken-fried chucklefuck segment of Nirvana's fandom. Cobain straight up tells any racists, sexists and homophobes that listen to Nirvana that they need to stop listening to Nirvana. It's not a post on some social media feed that can be edited and deleted later on, he never issued an apology, it's all right there, in print, black and white, part and parcel of the Incesticide experience.

What happened to that version of the rock star? Where are the guys with the honey-roasted nuts to stick up for the less-privileged? Come on, dudes. The worst you can end up is dead. Which is gonna happen whether you speak up or not.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Heroin: The Album


We get annual updates on the whereabouts of the Nevermind cover baby, but whoever wonders about the chick on Dirt?

Dirt is not the most metal of grunge albums, but it is the most grunge of metal albums. It's also one of the most aggressively depressing things I've ever heard. Layne Staley was firmly in the grip of Seattle's second-most popular drug and it took every ounce of remaining strength to write and record a masterpiece of such depravity.

"Them Bones"--Song one tells listeners no lies. The fight against pain and loss is a solitary struggle, and proof that the desperate pugilist doesn't always cut an admirable figure. "Them Bones" sounds like "If You're Happy and You Know It" compared to what follows.

"Dam That River"--The song most redolent of Facelift, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the one closest to being deemed skippable. Yeah it's so tight it resists a dime, but I could say that about every other track on here.

"Rain When I Die"--Gives me the shivers. Oh to be 15 and afraid of 30! Your dreams don't have to regularly feature a bloody knife wielded by a severed arm in order to appreciate "Rain When I Die," though it helps.

"Sickman"--Ah, the drug buddy. The ultimate in mistrust and disloyalty. Hold hands, but don't squeeze, and if he offers to catch you, run.

"Sickman" is a vortex made out of razorblades and misremembered hallucinations. Without Layne's incredible range, it would verge on intolerable.

"Rooster"--Every multi-platinum album has at least one overplayed hit. With all due respect to Pops Cantrell and his sacrifice, the chorus is hokey as Hee-Haw and shouldn't work whatsoever. It only does thanks again to Layne Staley, who imbues the tale of the unkillable soldier with tremendous shit-eating swagger.

"Junkhead"--Cracks my ass how Staley's all "YEEEEAAAAHHH" when the song is just big negation. The confluence of sounds here is unscrupulous.

One could be forgiven for assuming the members of Alice In Chains were scuzz-buckets with holes in their bottoms (and along the sides).

"Dirt"--The art of the metaphor. When Layne explains he's using drugs to escape the hellish miasma of his life, look deeper. Decode the symbolic language being used to determine the truth behind his words. To wit: he's using drugs to escape the hellish miasma of his life.

Holy God this song makes me want to eat drywall. I mean I like it, a lot, but fucking Christ someone text me a GIF of a Boston terrier tripping an obnoxious child.

"God Smack"--Godsmack sucks? Of course they fucking do. All right, goddamnit, listen up and listen well. The members of AIC cannot be blamed for the music of Godsmack, only their name. You don't blame the car manufacturer for a drunk driver's BAC, do you?

"Stick your arm for some real fun"? Wow, dude. Why does Layne sing like a horse on the verses? Is he being cute or what?

"Iron Gland"--An interlude with Slayer's Tom Araya yelling diabolical hoo-ha over distorted devil foodstuffs.

"Hate To Feel"--First impressions endure. Touching a snake disproved my belief in their sliminess, yet the phobia remains. Heroin, so I've heard tell, makes a monstrous first impression. Even if you upchuck the contents of your guts (a fairly common occurrence) the bliss lingers longer than humiliation. And, apparently, common sense.

This is Dirt's sleeper, the shadow of a one-armed man with a hook for a hand cast against the bedroom wall.

"Angry Chair"--Tap-dancing on graves for pennies. Blame the infection, sentient and capable of communicating in the host's language.

"I don't mind, yeah/I don't mind." More negation woefully disguised as affirmation. The music's power is undeniable. The musician's weakness is unbearable.

"Down In A Hole"--Incredibly not about hard drugs, but hard hearts. Pretension saved by precision. It's not hard to figure why women fall for men like Jerry Cantrell, or why their relationships will collapse quicker than a house of cards in a tornado. The artist hoards their emotions, feeling them as each situation demands. Soon he or she becomes adept at manipulating them for personal and professional benefit. A partner with self-esteem will grow weary of the games, and the sociopath artist will have the gall to feel mistreated.

"Would?"--Darker than a night of Himmler's soul. (But much, much less fascistic.) A series of howls from the wolf reduced to guarding an ungrateful cub. The vocals are awe-inspiring, without peer in the rock genre at that time.

My parents hadn't a clue about what I listened to as a teen. Or watched, or read, or thought. I only left the bedroom to attend school, use the bathroom, or retrieve food. They had me late in life, having already endured six kids, which provided me with a leeway that I knew even at the time I was abusing. What would they, two Christian children of the soil, have thought of Dirt? I'm glad I never found out.

Heroin ain't shit. Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell all used at various times in their lives, and all three created indelible art. Brad Nowell from Sublime shot up with the express hope to be like his idols and made several laughably derivative albums before his premature death from an overdose. So if you still need to be told that the substance of an artist is not entirely down to the substances inside the artist, well, you got told. Narcotics will only make a person more of what they essentially are, or less of what they essentially are.