photo & text by nacrowe
part of the enjoyment of listening to ALICE IN CHAINS's debut FACELIFT (COLUMBIA, 1990) is that you are witness to a full-throated performance of LAYNE STALEY when he was basically at his physical peak. its arguable that the creative apotheosis for the band was either later efforts like DIRT (review linked HERE), JAR OF FLIES (review linked HERE) or maybe even ALICE IN CHAINS (review linked HERE), but such records have the bitter aftertaste of knowing you are appreciating the efforts of a man courageously pushing ahead while in decline against chemical addictions pushing him asunder.
several of the tracks on FACELIFT that utilize STALEY's extraordinary vocal talents, notable "BLEED THE FREAK," "CONFUSION," "I CAN'T REMEMBER," "IT AIN'T LIKE THAT" and "MAN IN THE BOX", but the undisputed highlight is "LOVE, HATE, LOVE" which seemingly structurally centers around it. case in point is his unbelievable live performance of such on the LIVE FACELIFT VHS, which was a 1990 performance at THE MOORE THEATRE in SEATTLE. its rather bittersweet watching that band play since arguably this period of the band saw them play more shows than any other. the rest of the STALEY-era is basically misfired touring efforts and stopgap recorded efforts aimed at satiating a growing demand for life performances that mostly never came to pass. their 1993 summer co-headling (with PRIMUS) LOLLAPALLOZA jaunt was their last major tour with STALEY, which was in support of DIRT.
obviously i was too young (less than 10) when the original incarnation of ALICE IN CHAINS were a regular touring entity. my introduction to them were the singles that local SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA radio station 106.7 FM KROQ played on heavy rotation during the early 90s, namely "MAN IN THE BOX" and "WE DIE YOUNG." its funny to me now but i didn't actually know who the band was until i moved to NIGERIA in the fall of 1995 when an older AMERICAN schoolmate showed me his CD collection. like most people, my first impression of the band was informed by the emotional resonance of STALEY's monstrous performances which seemed both tortured and on the edge of control.
the band obviously went on to great things, both during the STALEY and the later WILLIAM DUVALL eras of the band. but its hard not to listen to FACELIFT and not wonder what career trajectory the band would have had with this original line-up had some in the band not succumbed to outside chemical interests. its a painful what-if.
rest in peace LAYNE.