If I Can't Be My Own I'd Be Better Dead
February 10, 2018 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Never intended to be released but instead was an exercise for the band to regroup after their 1993 tour, Alice In Chains' quasi-acoustic 1994 release Jar Of Flies was one of the most successful EPs [YTplaylist, ~30m] ever released. Cassette Side A: Rotten Apple, Nutshell, I Stay Away [video] posted by hippybear (30 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Alice in Chains is probably my favorite Seattle-based band of the early 90s, although I only ever listen to Facelift, Dirt, and Jar of Flies.

. for Layne.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:10 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


A decade ago Alice in Chains' CDs were the most common found in used CD store bargain bins. Today, the most common are Creed and Savage Garden.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:24 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... Is it really an EP, though? What even is an EP? Green Day’s Dookie, from the same year, indisputably a full album, is barely nine minutes longer; Hole’s Live Through This, less than eight minutes longer. The wikipedia article on EPs (which nonetheless later goes on to talk about how Jar of Flies was the first EP to go number one) offers just this as a solid definition:
In the United Kingdom, the Official Chart Company defines a boundary between EP and album classification at 25 minutes of maximum length or four tracks (not counting alternative versions of featured songs, if present).
That would exclude Jars of Clay on two fronts. But defining an EP just isn’t that simple. Even “longer than a single/shorter than an album” has the running times of The Smashing Pumpkins’ sextuple-b-sided Mellon Collie singles to contend with.

My personal mostly-arbitrary definition of an EP is “fits on one ten-inch record,” which sources indicate has an ideal capacity of 9+9 minutes, or a maximum of 14+14. Tool’s Opiate therefore just makes the cut, but Jar of Flies is a no. Perhaps EPs are just a Jacobellis v. Ohio situation?

A decade ago Alice in Chains' CDs were the most common found in used CD store bargain bins. Today, the most common are Creed and Savage Garden.

So there is justice in the world! (But what is this “used CD store” of which you speak in the year 2018?)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:39 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


This was on the daily playlist for most of 94-98 for me. I love this EP. Got me through some tough times.
posted by Chuffy at 2:44 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Look, I didn't classify it as an EP. Someone else did, even way back when it was released. It's a great work of musical art, and does the EP classification even matter? I'm just making the post; I'm not the one defining the way the things I post are classified.
posted by hippybear at 2:44 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Yeesh. Just making conversation, dude. Put it back in the holster.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


I always felt like it was full album, a full artistic epxression.
posted by hippybear at 2:51 PM on February 10


Love this E.P. (And if you compare it, length-wise, to Dirt, it makes sense why they’d market it as an E.P.). Everything that came after was meh to me; so this one feels like the end of the band’s best era.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:10 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Also I love that, above, probably due to predictive autocomplete, this gets mixed up with Jars Of Clay, a milquetoast Christian pop band who were about as far away from Alice In Chains as you could possibly get.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:12 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I always took the title to be a take on Jar Of Lies

The wikipedia shows my assumption to be wrong, but it also works.

Also, I heard that first copy versions of this were shipped out with a dead fly in the packaging. I don't know if that is heresay or truth, but it seems reasonable given the times.
posted by hippybear at 3:16 PM on February 10


My roommate in college had one of those; it was a plastic fly, not a dead one. In the clear space at the hinge of the compact disc jewel case. Pretty cool.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:20 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


A decade ago Alice in Chains' CDs were the most common found in used CD store bargain bins. Today, the most common are Creed and Savage Garden.

See also: Spin Doctors’ Pocket Full of Kryptonite, 4 Non Blondes, and R.E.M.’s Monster.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:28 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


That one-two of “Whale & Wasp” and “Don’t Follow”...

The Sap EP from a few years earlier was pretty good (and definitely an EP), but Jar of Flies was the best thing they did.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 3:36 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


I was typing a longer response, but I'll be concise and just say: good record.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:58 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Longer responses are also good.
posted by hippybear at 3:59 PM on February 10


There is an Alice in Chains iPad pinball game that lets you hit a jar of flies with the ball and make them buzz around.
posted by lagomorphius at 4:05 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Rumors are that the first issue of the EP had a single dead fly inside the CD packaging but I never saw one of those and so I don't know of it's true but this is the only AIC album I own and I have listened to it for decades and it is so good.
posted by hippybear at 4:24 PM on February 10


Pretty timely. Couple weeks ago I fell down a wiki hole on Layne Staley, rewatched the MTV unplugged performance, and basically just thinking about mortality, life, etc.

Bonus heartbreaking Staley pouring his heart out with Mad Season on Wake Up.
posted by King Bee at 5:43 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


See also: Spin Doctors’ Pocket Full of Kryptonite, 4 Non Blondes, and R.E.M.’s Monster.

See also just about anything by Sugar but especially Copper Blue which seems to turn up in every pile of used CDs I look at.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:49 PM on February 10


Copper Blue is a really good album, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 PM on February 10 [9 favorites]


My personal favorite, as Alice in Chains albums go. There's something to be said for the post-summit album, where the band is still at the top of their game, but not quite as hungry and ambitious, and just jamming around to make fun music. Like Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, which I consider another example.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 9:11 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]




Years ago I burned Sap and Jar of Flies onto one CD with Nothing Safe and Rooster bookending the collection. I have loaded this onto enough work PCs and home PCs that even on a new PC, Windows Media Player will recognize it and give it album art work. And damn, it is one powerful album. Gonna pour out a little of my Coke Zero this morning for Layne but the true genius of AiC was/is Jerry Cantrell.
posted by Ber at 7:16 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


" Copper Blue which seems to turn up in every pile of used CDs I look at."

I guess Bob Mould couldn't change their minds.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:17 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


(But what is this “used CD store” of which you speak in the year 2018?)

We have one! The village of Brockport, NY hasn't changed much in the past 30 years, apparently.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:24 AM on February 11


The libertarian bent of their music is unmistakable.

They seemed to understand better than most the unholy marriage of government, corporations and the military, and how it would pervert well meaning Progressives and turn them into the things they hated.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 4:34 PM on February 11


“Man is born free, but everywhere he is (Alice) in chains.”
posted by octobersurprise at 5:29 PM on February 11


I don't really have anything to add, except that this is a brilliant album and Nutshell is achingly beautiful.
posted by Palindromedary at 9:41 PM on February 11


"No Excuses" is just a gorgeous rock song and a karaoke favorite of mine.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:43 AM on February 12


My favorite anecdote about this album was that it was written and recorded in 7 days and featured a very tired producer being woken up at some ungodly hour by Jerry Cantrell asking how fast they can get a classical quartet in the studio.
posted by hoborg at 8:16 AM on February 12


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