Tuesday, September 29, 1992

Alice in Chains released Dirt

First posted 3/27/2011; updated 9/13/2020.


Alice in Chains

Released: September 29, 1992

Peak: 6 US, 42 UK, 25 CN, 13 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: grunge rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Them Bones (10/17/92, 24 AR, 30 MR, 26 UK)
  2. Dam That River
  3. Rain When I Die
  4. Down in a Hole (10/2/93, 10 AR, 36 UK)
  5. Sickman
  6. Rooster (3/13/93, 7 AR)
  7. Junkhead
  8. Dirt
  9. God Smack
  10. Iron Gland
  11. Hate to Feel
  12. Angry Chair (1/30/93, 34 AR, 27 MR, 33 UK)
  13. Would? (8/8/92, 19 AR, 19 UK)

Total Running Time: 57:37

The Players:

  • Layne Staley (vocals)
  • Jerry Cantrell (guitar)
  • Mike Starr (bass)
  • Sean Kinney (drums)


4.149 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)


About the Album:

Dirt is Alice in Chains’ major artistic statement and the closest they ever came to recording a flat-out masterpiece. It’s a primal, sickening howl from the depths of Layne Staley’s heroin addiction, and one of the most harrowing concept albums ever recorded.” AMG While recording the album, Staley checked out of rehab and quickly returned to using heroin. WK Drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr were also struggling with addiction. In their case, it was alcohol. WK

Staley said the album was semi-conceptual, “dealing with…personal anguish and turmoil, which turns into drugs to ease that pain, and being confident that that was the answer in a way. Then later on the songs start to slip down closer and closer to hell, and then he figures out that drugs were not, and are not, the way to ease that pain.” WK

“Not every song on Dirt is explicitly about heroin, but Jerry Cantrell’s solo-written contributions (nearly half the album) effectively maintain the thematic coherence – nearly every song is imbued with the morbidity, self-disgust, and/or resignation of a self-aware yet powerless addict.” AMG Pop Matters’ Michael Christopher said, “the record wasn’t celebratory by any means – but you’d be hard pressed to find a more brutally truthful work laid down – and that’s why it will always be one of the greatest records ever made.” WK

“Cantrell’s technically limited but inventive guitar work is by turns explosive, textured, and queasily disorienting, keeping the listener off balance with atonal riffs and off-kilter time signatures. Staley’s stark confessional lyrics are similarly effective, and consistently miserable. Sometimes he’s just numb and apathetic, totally desensitized to the outside world; sometimes his self-justifications betray a shockingly casual amorality; his moments of self-recognition are permeated by despair and suicidal self-loathing.” AMG The album was led by the single Would?, which first appeared on the soundtack for Cameron Crowe’s 1991 film Singles. The soundtrack boasted a slate of Seattle-based musicians and was one of the significant albums in introducing grunge to the mainstream. Cantrell wrote the song as a tribute to Andrew Wood, his friend and singer of Mother Love Bone, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. WK

Them Bones was, as Cantrell said, about “mortality, that one of these days we’ll end up a pile of bones.” WK He wrote Dam That River after a fight with Kinney in which Kinney broke a coffee table over his head. WK Cantrell and Staley wrote Rain When I Die about their girlfriends. WK Sickman grew out of a challenge from Staley to Cantrell to “write the sickest, darkest, most fucked up and heaviest thing he could write.” WK

Cantrell wrote Down in a Hole to his longtime girlfriend, Courtney Clarke. He said it’s one of his top three favorites. He said, “It’s the reality of my life, the path I’ve chosen and in a weird way it kind of foretold where we are right now. It’s hard for us both to understand…that this life is not conducive to much success with long-term relationships.” WK

“Even given its subject matter, Dirt is monstrously bleak, closely resembling the cracked, haunted landscape of its cover art. The album holds out little hope for its protagonists (aside from the much-needed survival story of Rooster, a tribute to Cantrell’s Vietnam-vet father), but in the end, it’s redeemed by the honesty of its self-revelation and the sharp focus of its music.” AMG

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