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I don't usually review EPs, but this one is 31 minutes long - that’s a Van Halen album! What's more, Jar of Flies debuted at No.1 on the Billboard charts when it came out, so it ain’t no ordinary EP. And lastly, it’s the best thing Alice in Chains ever released.

And yeah, I mean it when I say this is the best Alice in Chains release. It’s clearly better than Dirt, though I can't award Jar of Flies 7 stars because it only has six real songs, and only the brilliant 7-minute "Rotten Apple" cracks the 5-minute mark.

The reason it's so good is that - like the Sap EP before it - Jar of Flies is all acoustic ballads. Instead of the usual sheer emotional brutality of Alice in Chains metal, here there's half-an-hour of harrowing beauty. Sure, it’s not ALL acoustic - there are electric flourishes in most of the songs, and the closing “Swing On This” is actually mostly electric, but the overall feel I get is beauty from the swirling acoustics, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and the string arrangements.

Jar of Flies is as if the band looked inside the cold, brutal, unfeeling world of Dirt and found a little beauty, so they plucked it out and made a half-hour EP.

The most amazing thing about this record is that the band wrote and recorded the ENTIRE THING in a week! You hear me? ONE WEEK!!! Never mind writing a half-hour of material this brilliant in a week, they also recorded the whole thing too, which I find incredibly hard to believe, because the music here is very layered - possibly not as much as Dirt, but clearly more so than Facelift. I mean, the vocal harmonies alone sound like they could take a week to do.

Crappy bands could write for months and not come with anything as good as the 2-minute instrumental “Whale & Wasp”, whose sorrowfully muted electric notes are undercut by pretty acoustic work and occasionally answered (in a really beautiful way) by a string section. That's followed by the first half of the gorgeous “Don’t Follow” - just acoustic and harmonica. The second half then picks up a bit after the drums come in, such that the relative abrasiveness of “Swing On This” doesn’t seem like such a shocking transition.

Every song here is not just good, it’s very good. There’s no “Down in a Hole” orgasmic high or anything, but they’re all great, and except for “Swing On This” they all sound really similar - just mellow acoustic ballads, with a touch of quiet electric soloing and/or string sections, and Layne’s perfect vocal harmonies on top.

I'd add that this EP in my view sees Sean Kinney’s best drumming performance, even if he only plays on like four and a half songs or something. I’m not usually a big fan of his drumming - he sounds too much like Creed’s drummer (probably not a coincidence), though still better than that buffoon.

My favorite tune on the album is “Rotten Apple”, with its beautiful hey ah na na's, but I have a hunch I only like it because it’s 2 minutes longer than anything else. So check out this release even if you don’t like Alice in Chains or metal or whatever. You’ll love it, trust me.

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by Reviewer: BRAD

Posted: Wednesday 17th Jan 2018 8:49 PM
Recent album review
The mediocrity of Zenyatta Mondatta continues, though I didn't catch on to that until about 15 minutes in. What Sting and the two other guys did this time was start the album off with three great songs, then put a bunch of crap in the middle.

The hits were "Spirits in the Material World" and "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". The latter contains the first appearance of those stupid lyrics about a story of a thousand rainy days ... it's a big enough umbrella, which would reappear on Synchronicity and that crappy Sting solo song "Seven Days". Why?

The other great song is "Invisible Sun", Sting's Irish political commentary. And that's not even preachy, so it seems Sting kept his ego under control for a few minutes.

After that? Shit. Side One ends with "Demolition Man", which is about as good (and as long) as the film was. Side Two contains a few real stinkers, "Darkness" in particular is a formless / aimless jam. And then there's "One World (Not Three)" (oops, so much for Sting not being preachy).

The relative highlights on Side Two are "Secret Journey", "Omega Man" (Summers' songwriting would quickly nosedive, as Synchronicity would demonstrate), and the frenetic "Too Much Information".

Sting called this album 'dark', I'd call it dreary. Or dull. Still, I increased the rating a bit, for although the second side is pretty crappy, I really like "Secret Journey" now. And the first three songs are good.

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by Reviewer: Cole Reviews

Posted: Thursday 18th Jan 2018 12:53 PM
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