Album Review: Alice in Chains – “Dirt”

Dirt is the second album by Alice in Chains, and it was released on September 29, 1992. The album peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 album chart, and has been certified four-times platinum by the RIAA. The topics of the songs on the album include depression, anger, drug use, war, and death.

The album opens with “Them Bones,” which was the second single released from Dirt. Ultimately, it’s a song about mortality. These lyrics are accompanied by very driving and memorable guitar work by Jerry Cantrell. This is followed by “Dam That River,” which features soaring guitar work and Layne Staley’s distinctive vocals. Lyrically, there’s a lot of anger in the song, with the speaker directing their venom at someone that they’re very unhappy with.

The next song on Dirt is “Rain When I Die.” Musically, this song has a heavy bassline, but it also slows down the album a little bit. Lyrically, the song is about the speaker, who doesn’t seem to be sure about his relationship with a woman. “Down in a Hole” follows, and it was released as a single from Dirt. It’s one of the slower songs on the album; lyrically, it’s also rather depressing. Personally, I have to be in just the right mood to listen to this particular song.

“Sickman” picks the tempo of the album back up musically. Lyrically, the speaker of the song seems to be heading toward a state of losing their mind. This is followed by “Rooster,” which was released as a single from Dirt. Musically, it’s a bit on the slower side when compared to other songs on the album. Jerry Cantrell wrote the lyrics of this song for his father, who had served in the Vietnam War. The song tells the story of a soldier who served during the war.

The song “Junkhead” is a song that’s blatantly about drug use. The lyrics to this song are accompanied by a midtempo sound that features a heavy bassline. The next song on the album is the title track, and it’s another midtempo song. Lyrically, the speaker is longing for death, whether it’s by their own hand or by someone else killing them.

“God Smack” picks the tempo of the album back up. It’s a song with lyrics that hint at drug use, especially at the end. The next song doesn’t have a title listed on the back of the CD, but it’s called “Iron Gland.” It’s a short song with a very heavy bass line, with only a few short lines being screamed, accompanied by some laughter.

“Hate to Feel” is a song written by Layne Staley that talked about his drug addiction. It has a heavier bassline with a murky riff. This is followed by “Angry Chair,” which was the third single released from Dirt. It’s a song written entirely by Layne Staley, which features a heavy bassline that accentuates the lyrics of the song. The album closes with “Would?,” which also appeared on the soundtrack for the film Singles. It’s a song Jerry Cantrell wrote about Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died of a heroin overdose in 1990.

Dirt is a very strong album from start to finish, and flows together very smoothly. It’s an album that spoke to the young people of the early 1990s, but I believe that the music on this album is able to transcend the time period that it came out in. Young people, whether in the 1990s or today, still have the same kinds of issues to deal with. It really is no wonder why this album was so well received and is one of the highly regarded albums to come out during the heyday of “grunge.” If you enjoy alternative music, then you will probably also enjoy Alice in Chains’ Dirt.


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