photo & text by nacrowe
as mentioned before in a review on the SAP EP (review linked HERE), during the LAYNE STALEY-era of SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK band ALICE IN CHAINS career the band put out largely acoustic EPs in between major releases. following this pattern the JAR OF FLIES EP (COLUMBIA, 1994) was released before the self-titled ALICE IN CHAINS (COLUMBIA, 1995) record. arguably it was the quality and range of these two stopgap EPs that showcased the emotional power of this band during their heyday and provided them with the ability to stretch their audiences expectations in a manner few of their peers were allowed.
as a teenager, JAR OF FLIES was my favorite ALICE IN CHAINS release. i was obsessed with it in middle school. i drew the cover on the back of notebooks and even on my backpack at the time when my family lived in NIGERIA. the impassioned instrumental "OF WHALE & WASP" was something i would routinely listen to twice on the way to and from school in the armed convoy of buses we'd take every day. its sullen and somber mood fit perfectly with the suffering witnessed from my window seeing the devastating results living in a military dictatorship. in my mind's eye that song still takes me back to that routine voyage to and from our armed compound to school.
initially i was familiar with the singles off of FACELIFT (COLUMBIA, 1990) from my time living in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, but it wasn't until i moved to AFRICA in 1996 when i was in 6th grade that older kids showed me the rest of their catalogue, including DIRT (COLUMBIA, 1992) and JAR OF FLIES. obviously the quality of tracks like "NUTSHELL," "NO EXCUSES" and "I STAY AWAY" are widely celebrated, the former two being standout highlights from their later UNPLUGGED (COLUMBIA, 1996) session for MTV. my favorite song on the record is the opener "ROTTEN APPLE" which showcases the uncanny ability of STALEY and JERRY CANTRELL to layer vocals to incredible affect, especially on the chorus. its deeply affecting. and the talk box guitar heroics are subtle yet mind-blowing on that track as well. lyrically the record seems to delve into STALEY's feeling of being confined by both his DRUG ADDICTION and his status as a CELEBRITY. it should be noted that at this point original bassist MIKE STARR had already been let go for SUBSTANCE ABUSE-related issues.
this ability to not wallow but deal directly with the ramifications of his addiction publicly and honestly is something i will always respect STALEY for. not everyone has the COURAGE to lean into and own their weaknesses and personal failures. what he gave the world was a real gift.
this is my favorite record by one of my all-time favorite bands, so yeah, you should definitely check out JAR OF FLIES if you are unfamiliar with the band. required listening in my opinion.