George Starostin's Reviews



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Theresa Bollhagen <> (25.07.2004)

I wish everyone would get off the fact that Layne was a junkie! There are thousands of musicians that were and still are junkies. The fact is, Layne created great music and art. He was one of the only musicians that was honest about his addiction, and everyone thinks they have to criticise him for it. Musicians are supposed to draw from their lives. I should know- I am one. How about focusing on the music people, and not what causes it!

Andy Ditter <> (23.08.2004)

alice in chains had a lot more than what kurt cobain had come out of his brains before he blew them out, people shouldn't even consider "the grunge movement" a real movement, it was rock and still is rock, or if you consider it metal, whatever, grunge is a music fan in a flannel shirt, back to alice in chains they evolved from album to album, unlike a lot of these fucks still stuck in the so called "grunge" sound, same with metallica the guys are still hard, even if their tingy snare is in use, so everybody please understand alice in chains was a god-send and by far the best band to come out of seattle, fuck.

Lindsey Eck <> (02.10.2005)

Jerry Cantrell's solo albums are of very high quality, though a lot less like Alice than you might expect, especially the first one. (He even goes country on one track!)


Dan Miller <> (13.09.2002)

Alice in Chains started out as a women's-apparel-and-make-up glam-metal hair band in the wake of Guns 'N Roses and Faster Pussycat, but by the time this commercially released album came out, they tried a different M.O. Perhaps this is "grunge" at its gestational period, seeing as they came out of Seattle, but you're right, it's metal. Now there's more of a difference between grunge and metal than D&D (Heavy Metal is oversexed, death-mongering devil worship in leather and spandex and wanky guitar solos and often-complex song structures, and I love it! Grunge is sexless, stoned, Ritalin-force-fed, politically charged, anti-establishment post-punks in denim and flannel with three-chord song structures, and I hate it! OK, sorry, I'm generalizing ... ). But yeah, "fuck grunge" is right, and I am in agreement with that assessment. Alice in Chains brought some talent to the pool, and Layne Staley has a terrific voice that really echoes the troubles that infected his mind, body and soul (usually strained by extensive heroin use, which in the end sent him to his grave). I agree with your assessment of the tunes. Half of this album is absolutely essential (and I like "Love, Hate, Love"); the rest borders on sameness, but still enjoyable in a "good driving CD" way. But don't stop here, George. Put Dirt on your priority list (followed by the EPs Sap and Jar of Flies). If you don't think Dirt is one the best modern-metal/nu-metal/grunge, ad nauseum, album you've ever heard, then stay away from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Helmet and all the rest of those Northwest neo-hippie punks 'cause it don't get no better than this!

<> (29.04.2003)

This is Alice in Chains at their most heavy and brutal. And it absolutely rules! Everybody knows "Man in the Box" and "We Die Young" and they certainly rule, but the true highlight is "Bleed the Freak." Man, that overlapping vocal arrangement in the verses that trails behind the beginning of the chorus just kicks all sorts of ass. Stunning even.

Andrew Brotherton <> (30.07.2005)

Considering that Facelift came out before Nirvana broke, I have always been surprised that the album does not give the listener more of a peak into the early glam years of AIC. The fact that is doesn't shows that AIC had already found their calling shortly before making this record. What is their calling? Well, to write about Death, Drugs, and Death. Oh, and Drugs and Death too. Alice's catalog explores these two themes in more depth that any other band in rock history. Facelift lays the ground work for what is to come in all their later work. Alice is still a little bit "fun" or "happy" on a couple tracks, something that will not happen again on any recording they issue (save the farting song on SAP) Facelift is a strong debut, but ranks third out of the bands 3 LP's. I have always been a huge AIC fan. I agree with George's rating of 8.


<> (28.12.2002)

"Rooster" is actually a song written by guitarist Jerry Cantrell about his dad's experience in the Vietnam War. It'll make sense next time you hear it.

I've never been terribly fond of "Rooster," but Dirt is a great great record. Mmhmm.

Robert Chaundy <> (01.01.2003)

Actually, I think it is the middle third of the album that sags, and I am surprised that you don't think the last three songs are the album's pinnacle - I certainly do and so do a lot of other folks. Give 'em another listen. The melody of 'Would?' is impossibly great.

Jar of Flies is supposedly an EP, but I think you should review it as you would an album - it's longer than Nashville Skyline, after all.

Good review though. Dirt is well worth its five stars - keen work George.

Andrew Brotherton <> (30.07.2005)

Alice In Chain's masterpiece. And one of the best albums released in the decade. Dirt sees the band step up the songwriting to the next level. Layne's voice is still as powerful as ever and he really pours his guts out on this album. If the drugs were fun on Facelift, well...they are NOT fun anymore. In fact, the drugs have taken hold and it doesn't seem like there is any escape from them. Sadly we found out years later that indeed was the case. On Dirt, Alice In Chains make an album so dark and fucking heavy that you know the band had to go through hell to make it. Drug addiction and death are the main themes here and no one has ever put it on record with this much power. A 10 that must be in everyone's record collection.


imsilverblue <> (15.08.2004)

All right - so I like the country/metal mixture here. The lyrics and vibe in "Don't Follow" give me chills every time I hear the song. One of those songs  that feels like it was written about pieces of my life. The sentiments have been expressed before, sure, but the guys really got it right here.

"Swing on This reminds me of Sabbath's jazz experiments on Never Say Die, and I'm always surprised that this song gets such positive reviews just because it's different. I like the sound and feel of "Whale and Wasp," but I love this band's lyrics, so I feel cheated when 14% of the album is an instrumental tune. Call me greedy.


Lionel Maréchal <> (22.02.2004)

First of all, thank you! I thought Alice In Chains were nothing but an average grunge band, but my attention has been grabbed by the surprisingly high ratings you gave to them; I listened to Dirt and, thanks to you, I've discovered a great band! I'd never call this album "death metal", though : the vocal harmonies and overall ambiance sure are grunge. And I have listened to some real death metal (not for the benefit of my ears - it's one of the most unlistenable genres I know, and uncatchy, unmelodic...), and nothing that came quite close to the greatness of this album.

AIC are one of the very few metal bands that carry a genuine message. The guitar sound is amazingly creepy, and the melodies are great! The ballads are good, too (a rare feature among the metal crowd). The three first songs are all great, I also like "Junkhead" very much (there's a fairy-like guitar line after the second chorus that's nearly tears-inducing...). OK everything is not perfect ("Hate To Feel", "Angry Chair" are a bit boring, and "God Smack", apart from the BIG wah-wah attack of the chorus, has virtually nothing that held my attention), but the two last songs are terrific too : the melodies are unforgettable ("Down in a hole, feelin' so small..." as well as "Into the flood again...", I can't get'em out of my head ! "So I made a big mistake..."). Fantastic album. One of my favourite anti-drug pieces of music, with "Sister Morphine" (of course) and Renaud's "P'tite Conne" (you've never heard of it, of course, but it's the only song that almost made me cry... so sad and so beautiful!).

Rating : 10 (13). It deserves it. Oh, and the untitled album (often called Tripod) isn't half bad, either.

Jacob W. <> (20.06.2005)

Listening to this Alice in Chains album, to me, is the musical equivalent of watching the movie Requiem for a Dream, which is, in a word, terrifying (if you ever want someone to be scared shitless to ever use any hard drugs, show them that movie). Music lets you see the mind of the composer, and so this must be what the mind of a heroin/cocaine addict is like (one who could still make great music even with such an addiction), and that makes the music all the more genuinely unnerving.

Andrew Brotherton <> (30.07.2005)

The cover really says it all. The dog is missing a leg and Alice was all but missing a member. Layne Staley was slowly being killed by his addiction when the time came to make this record. If you look at pictures of Layne during this is sad. I would estimate that Layne Staley was maybe 80% of the singer he was on the band's two previous studio LP's. There is no way he could belt out a "Rain When I Die" or a "Love Hate Love" anymore. And taking this into account Jerry Cantrell tailors his songs for what Layne can still do...which is put to tape a diary of what it is like to walk through hell. To want to die. To simply not want to live ANYMORE. It is insane. There are some drug addled ramblings over layered droning guitars on here that will scare you to death. On Tripod Layne has more studio effects put to is voice than on Facelift or Dirt, and it works. It works because it takes the band in somewhat of a new direction just as much as Cantrell's approach does. If AIC has an "art" album than this is it. George hit it on the head with 'Frogs'. The "Never Fuck With Me Again" line heard towards the end of 'Frogs' is my favorite moment on the record. It is one last fuck you from a man that knows his fate. Please listen to this record on your headphones on a cold and rainy night. At that time it is a 10. All other times it is a 9. AIC's last great moment.

mike noto <> (26.01.2006)

Definitely "Frogs" is the best song on here. That monologue is terrifying.

And by special request, here it is:

"At 7 am on a Tuesday, usual August ... Next week I'll be 28... I'm still young, it'll be me... Off the wall I scrape... you... I can't wake, I gotta wake... To cause this wake, I gotta wake no more... It causes wake, to drown this hate.... To never really stay, never will..... You take your plate... Put me through hell, live, live... Direct your fate... You say I can do it so well... Your expiration date... [2x] Fate, date, expiration date... (this was the last time) Hate... And don't fuck with me again... My own clean slate... Don't fuck with me again... Makes your eyes dilate... Makes you shake... Irate..."

Yikes! That's pretty heavy stuff. Layne must have really been in a terrible state. Overall this one's tough, but great.


Lindsey Eck <> (02.10.2005)

I'm sure you haven't seen the t.v. film of this concert. I had the album for some time before I did. One correction: The bass is an acoustic bass. It's of the kind that is shaped like a giant guitar. The bassist (name escapes me) had scrawled on the front in black marker: FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS GET HAIRCUTS. Apparently Layne had cut his hair too short for the show? I once played in a band where the bassist had commissioned a custom guitar maker to construct one of these guitar-shaped basses. Within a year the bridge plate had peeled off the body and repeated repair attempts failed. That's the problem with these acoustic guitar–style basses: the physical forces necessary to keep the heavy strings up to pitch are too much for the instrument and they don't last. For myself, last year I solved this dilemma by purchasing a Mexican mariachi bass called a guitarrón. This is a six-string fretless instrument with a gigantic guitar-shaped body, vaulted in the back like a cello, with a tiny neck the length of a mandolin neck. The sound is rich, like a standup bass, maybe even better for acoustic recording because it doesn't overwhelm acoustic guitars like a standup bass can. The drawback is that the tuning and technique are way different from those of a standard four-string bass, and take a lot of getting used to.

One other thing: When I had not seen the t.v. show I assumed that the extra guitarist they brought in as a ringer was there to play lead. Not true. He plays almost exclusively rhythm, while Jerry Cantrell plays almost all the leads, and very impressively.

Mike Noto <> (26.01.2006)

The "Friends Don't Let Friends Get Haircuts" thing scrawled on Mike Inez's acoustic bass refers to Metallica, who'd recently gotten shorn/Versace'd and consequently lost a good deal of their metal glory. It's really interesting that around that time their albums began to go downhill...a trace of Samson here, perhaps? Hm. Layne's voice isn't at it's best, and pictures of him at this show are really scary (the guy looks terrible, totally emaciated and pale), but it's still very good, and while songs like "Frogs" lose a little in acoustic translation, the performance of "Down In A Hole" definitely makes up for it. Though it's not as good as the studio version on "Dirt," it's still an extremely memorable performance. All in all, not a truly essential buy, but you'll like it a lot if you're a fan.

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