Search This Blog

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Alice In Chains: Rainier Fog


1) The One You Know; 2) Rainier Fog; 3) Red Giant; 4) Fly; 5) Drone; 6) Deaf Ears Blind Eyes; 7) Maybe; 8) So Far Under; 9) Never Fade; 10) All I Am.

General verdict: Yet another pile of generic mock-grunge sludge to tarnish the good name of Alice In Chains, the Seattle musical scene, and rock music in general.

Unfortunately, my hopes did not come to pass. Five years after The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (has it really been that long? feels like yesterday!), the bunch of second-rate impersonators calling themselves Alice In Chains are back again to saddle us with one more hour of songs that have no reason to exist other than gently flog the still quite dead horse of Seattle grunge. The only difference is that the flogging is now accompanied with flashier PR: the album title itself refers to Mount Rainier, and the album release was promoted with several well-advertised Seattle gigs and even a pop-up museum installation on the bandʼs history.

All of which, actually, is a rare case where PR activity is superior to the main work. Going to an Alice In Chains concert or educating oneself on the history of Alice In Chains is one thing — trudging through this predictable, unbearably generic sludge is quite another. Rainier Fog passes the «bland shit» test with flying colors: two listens in, I cannot remember a single musical phrase or vocal hook from any of the songs — at best, I have a distinct recollection that some of these phrases and hooks very vaguely reminded me of certain moments from Facelift and Dirt, albums that still live on quite vividly in my memory even if I may not have relistened to them properly for several years.

At this point, I think, the band is doing a disservice not only to itself but also to the rock genre in general: younger generations who have no idea what the fuss is about and whose first exposure to the world of grunge guitars and rock screaming just might be this album will only emerge from the experience with a strong sense of disbelief about how anybody in anybodyʼs right mind could ever enjoy something like this. Believe me, kids, there used to be a time when (the best) grunge singers could actually convey feelings of real spiritual pain, rather than sound like monotonously programmed voice synthesizers. And there used to be a time when guitar players like Jerry Cantrell could search out the most motherfuckingly meanest guitar tones in existence and use them to play chord changes that actually reminded you of a real Mount Rainier eruption, rather than of tranquil rivers of dense shit steadily flowing through Seattleʼs sewers.

Rainier Fog offers no variety, no diversity, not a single musical, vocal, or lyrical idea that has not already been executed in better form by these guys themselves or any of their other Seattle pals. There is very little to distinguish one song from another; of course, Alice In Chains were never known for featuring variegated mood palettes, but at least they could range from angry to pensive to mournful to agonizing — Rainier Fog enters the «slow simulated anger» mode on the first track and never ever lets go, even on the one and only track where they switch to acoustic guitars for a brief spell (ʽFlyʼ — which the song refuses to do), not to mention the excruciatingly torturous seven-minute finale (ʽAll I Amʼ), a dirge based on, I think, a totality of two musical phrases that might have been recovered by Cantrell over a couple of minutes of «creativity».

None of this is a surprise — you would have to be an almost parody-level kind of optimist to expect a miracle after the previous two records. The only thing that still seems surprising is the occasionally encountered reaction of admiration, from fans and critics alike, for how Alice In Chains still manage to «evolve» and «find new directions». "The band are much more than a simple grunge band these days", writes one journalist (right, and in the Layne Staley days they were apparently just a simple grunge band!); the band is "breathing new life into their signature sound, with a diverse (sic!) and deeply emotional collection that history will surely view as a career-defining statement", writes another — are you shitting me? Come on guys, this is Jerry frickinʼ Cantrell you are writing about, not Pablo Escobar. He is harmless, he can take some well-deserved beating — nobody is going to deprive him of his past laurels for his current sins. Oh well, at least their album sales seem to be slipping at this point; maybe that is a good sign (who knows, maybe if The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here did not miraculously hit #2 on the charts, they would have lacked the incentive to churn out this even shittier follow-up). 

No comments:

Post a Comment