Cane Hill's guide to Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains
Alice In Chains circa 1990 (Image credit: Getty)

“Alice In Chains are the most underrated grunge band ever – Nirvana somehow overtook them in terms of popularity. They’re some of the best musicians I’ve ever heard; they took blues, grunge and a little bit of Led Zeppelin and made these mind-blowing songs. And then you’ve got Layne Staley, who is the greatest vocalist ever and… just my idol.”

Man In The Box (Facelift, 1990)

“That song and its success is what shaped the entire Dirt album. I think Man In The Box is the song that got them to where they wanted to be, because if you listen to Dirt, it’s clearly the direction that they wanted to be going in. It has the heaviest harmonies on [debut album] Facelift, then Dirt just replicates it.”

We Die Young (Facelift, 1990)

“Probably the coolest opener I’ve ever heard on an album; this being the first song you hear on an album is amazing. The power of this track just knocks me back every time I hear it. That’s the thing about Alice In Chains, they have so much more power than any of the other grunge bands. This is so heavy.”

Junkhead (Dirt, 1992)

“This is just a complete disregard for caring about people knowing that the band do drugs. Junkhead is just the 1990s incarnate as far as I’m concerned. Like, just totally apathetic about somebody else’s opinion that you might or might not be a total fuck-up. And if Layne didn’t do it then I don’t think that we’d be able to do it, so thank God for Layne!”

Sickman (Dirt, 1992)

“Brutally honest lyrics again, and that’s what I love about Alice In Chains. Lyrics today are so fucking boring, like, who gives a shit about your fucking boring story about some fucking girl? Who fucking cares? Then you’ve got Layne going, ‘Yeah, I’m a sickman, I’m a junkhead! I’m fucked dude,’ and writing pure poetry about it.”

Sea Of Sorrow (Facelift, 1990)

Sea Of Sorrow is a little bit smoother, and a little bit more Led Zeppelin. The guitars are incredible on this song – the meld of Cantrell’s guitar part and Layne’s voice just flow so well. It’s like a river.”

Love, Hate, Love (Facelift, 1990)

“This is one of the songs where Cantrell’s vocals take much more of a back seat position – it’s pure Layne on this track, and you get to hear just how good he is. The emotion in his voice is so stunning, that’s why I love this song. When I first heard it I was like, ‘Damn, this guy is good!”

Would? (Dirt, 1992)

“I include this just because of the heaviness. I love the end part where it goes “If. I. Would. Could. You…” and it slows down every time. It’s so rhythmically heavy and amazing, and this was a big hit. I feel like the only way you can get big as a heavy band is to be as real as that – there is so much fake shit around right now that you have to be inspired by a band like this.”

Angry Chair (MTV Unplugged, 1996)

“I love how angry and grumpy this is, it’s the only version I listen to. You have no idea how many times I’ve watched that entire performance. The part where Layne takes his glasses off and you see his eyes rolling back into his head… incredible. He somehow takes this amazing album and makes it even better live.”

God Smack (Dirt, 1992)

“I like this song because of the wavering vocals, I didn’t know that Layne could do that until I heard this song. I heard it and I thought, ‘Oh shit! I do that!’ I mean, I’m definitely not as good as him, but I do that same thing. He sounds like a weirdo, and I like that.”

Rain When I Die (Dirt, 1992)

“This is just the saddest fucking song. Layne called it. He knew. That acceptance of what he had done with his life, with how it had played out for him. That’s the coolest fucking thing. You can be a piece of shit, you can be fucked up, and you’ll deny it and you won’t accept it. But he did. He knew he was going to die and he accepted it.”

Alice In Chains: the story behind Rooster

Alice In Chains: "It hurts and you miss them, but you still have to live"