Black, Blue, and Seattle Grey

As you might be aware, Alice In Chains is planning to release a new album; the first single of which is already available for download. This will be a landmark event, as it marks the studio debut of their new line-up, with singer William DuVall replacing the late Layne Staley. While I might commemorate this historic occasion with a look into Layne’s life, I am simply not sufficiently acquainted with the man to attempt this. As I know him, Layne Staley could have been a saint. He also could have been a self-indugent jackass, but this doesn’t concern me. Even if you told me Layne had been a puppy-kicking child molester that hates gays because Rush Limbaugh told him to, I would probably respect his music.

I had a moment with AIC and their melancholic soundscapes as an undergraduate. The living room was dark, the mood was chill, and the bowl was in full rotation. Facelift was playing on the stereo system, and I heard as I passed the pipe a cold and poignant whisper; a spectral sound from beyond the grave. The words of a ghost sang out to me.

“Take another hit,” the voice forebode, “and bury your brother.”

What haunted you, Layne? Was it the bite of heroin, or the curse of genius? Did you train your eyes to see and your ears to hear a beauty and a sound that could never be held by the hands of mortals? What demons lurked behind the haggard eyes of a man whose music tamed the wild soul of gospel’s flight, and taught it to bite against its wielder? What did you see under the star-decked skies of Earth’s gray cities, and what stared back to meet your tortured visage?

What hurt you, who has lent the voice of suffering to so many of our own woes, who painted our inner blacks and grays into the tonal hues of misery, who played the minstrel for dystopia’s court and placed before its paling lords all the dirges that would come to mark its very perishing?

I don’t know if I want to know. But I was hoping to share the mystery. More poignantly than to the past, however, I find my eyes also turning to the future. Layne is dead. Kurt is dead. Trent has stopped touring, so I’m told. So what oh what will we jaded children of the nineties do in the new millennium? Shall we write new songs, and grace the coming era with a smile? Or will a lack of musical bleakness make us bleaker still, prompting meta-levels of rage against a hostile and less grungy world? Maybe we’ll just have to grow up and stop living on angst?

Maybe the new CD will bail us out. “Black Gives Way To Blue,” by Alice In Chains, premieres 9-29-09. I’ll see you at the record shops.

Redpilleno is a contributing writer for ProjectGroupThink.  Follow us on Twitter at username PGTblog.

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2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, social commentary

2 responses to “Black, Blue, and Seattle Grey

  1. Po

    I have a copy of Alice In Chain’s mtv unplugged performance from years ago. It was towards the end of Layne’s life and he looked pretty lifeless. Before seeing their live performance I had no idea that Jerry Cantrell actually was the featured singer on a lot of their tracks. I’ll give the new album a listen but I’m not expecting them to be able to replicate that awesome sonic sludge sound.

    The nineties definitely represented a unique time in American popular music. It really was the first time since the early-mid 70’s that mainstream music had substance. There’s still a lot of great music out there but you’ll have to actively attempt to seek it out. I won’t shed any tears for Trent Reznor either… he’s been doing the same song and dance for over a decade (albeit a pretty good one) – but talk about a one-trick pony.

  2. soahki

    Alice In Chains were one of the most significant bands of my teen years, and their songs still evoke so much emotion in me to this day. They, as well as other prominent bands of Seattle’s grunge rock scene, helped get me through the angst filled, torturous years of my adolescence. I scribbled the lyrics to such songs as Dirt

    “One who doesn’t care is one who shouldn’t be
    I’ve tried to hide myself from what is
    Wrong for me, for me”

    and Sickman

    “I can feel the wheel but I can’t steer
    When my thoughts become my biggest fear
    Ah, what’s the difference, I’ll die
    In this sick world of mine”

    all over my sneakers and notebooks, and each time I re- read these bleak & agonized lines, I somehow felt less alone. This music was both powerful and profound, and it had a very deep impact on me.

    I’m looking forward to the new album, not only for nostalgia’s sake, but because AIC was always genuinely great music. However, I do wonder what they’ll sound like without Layne Staley.

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