Alice In Chains - Facelift
Heavy Metal/Grunge
12 songs (54:15)
Release year: 1990
Alice In Chains
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Although originally formed as a band that ‘dressed in drag and played Speed Metal’, by the time that debut full-length Facelift came along the members were more interested in channelling the gloomy atmosphere of Seattle, and soon found themselves part of the burgeoning grunge scene when Nirvana’s Nevermind shot the city to fame a year later. They toured with everyone from Poison to Slayer, showing their wide appeal and although 1992’s Dirt was, is, and forever shall be without question the better album – the harmonies between Staley and Cantrell aren’t as refined on Facelift, and the songs are of a lower quality overall, repetitive at times and blending together – there is enough that Facelift has to offer to make it worthy of your time. First and foremost is the first seven minutes or so of the album, two of the band’s best songs opening Facelift in killer fashion. We Die Young, a two minute stormer about child drug dealers, kicks things off in heavy style, infectious riffing and some vocal gymnastics from Staley – the sad irony in the song title doesn’t need to be stated.

Man In The Box was the band’s first big single, and remains a great song now, slowing the pace a little but with an undeniably excellent chorus. It’s as depressing as you’d expect from the band, Staley’s performance suitably miserable, fitting perfectly with the sludgy guitar tone. From then on, the album’s a real mixed bag. Sea Of Sorrow continues the woe-is-me theme with only a slight drop in quality – it’s a great song, but not up to its predecessor. The downward slide continues with Bleed The Freak and the dull I Can’t Remember which seems a bit misery-by-numbers – a chorus of ‘I can’t remember’ probably summing up the opinion of most about this song. Love, Hate, Love is probably the most balladic track present, slow and with a neat solo but soon forgotten when the following It Ain’t Like That brings the riffage again.

Although a large part of Alice In Chains’ appeal is the gloomy, junkie atmosphere, it has to be said that as compelling as it can be to experience the misery of drug experience, listening to said junkies whining about how awful it is to be a smackhead can get awfully tiresome awfully fast, and that’s a great metaphor for certain parts of this album. Either you’re a rabid fan of the band, or you need to be in a certain mood for them, and the fact that this album goes on for nearly an hour can be irritating at times. Fine, Sunshine is a neat little song, and Put You Down rocks most satisfactorily, but Confusion meanders terribly and the funky I Know Somethin’ (‘Bout You) is either a knowing experiment or a terrible misstep. I lean towards the former, and it is a nice side-step from the general woe-is-me theme, but you still have to question the necessity of such a move when the power of the songs should speak for themselves.

The album finishes with the Bluesy Real Thing, one of those annoyingly good songs that spoils a reviewer’s theme when an album is at that point somewhere between 'good' and 'just OK'. Those of you with eagle eyes will have noted the considerably higher scores that my colleagues have given this, yet I can't bring myself to agree. The songs are mostly good, overall, certainly enough to make Facelift worthy of purchase but not of worship. That’s the best way to sum it up, really; a band so rocked by tragedy as Alice In Chains is sure to be an acquired taste, the sort of thing you'll probably rediscover in ten to twenty years' time and fall back in love with when a different setting gives the songs a new meaning – even in my current uber-cynical incarnation, I'll agree that there is far more good than bad here, even if this is not the Dirt that seekers of misery are looking for.

Killing Songs :
We Die Young, Man In The Box, Sea Of Sorrow, It Ain’t Like That, Sunshine
Goat quoted 73 / 100
Adam quoted 90 / 100
Khelek quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Alice In Chains that we have reviewed:
Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Alice In Chains - Alice in Chains reviewed by Adam and quoted 89 / 100
Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies EP reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
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