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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 089

Match 089:

Alice In Chains "Died" (1999)
Nirvana "White Lace And Strange" (1987)
Pearl Jam "1/2 Full" (2002)
Soundgarden "Boot Camp" (1996)

For Alice In Chains, this was the end of 1) the 1990's, 2) Their three disc boxed set and 3) The career of their lead singer Layne Staley.  Originally written during the "Degradation Trip" sessions (along with "Get Born Again"), this wound up being another creepy farewell, as Layne is singing about how "It's been deflating since you Died" three years before he takes the trip himself.  According to Genius, this song is about his fiancĂ©e's death in October 1996, as if this couldn't get any darker.  Layne took it extremely hard.

Musically, "Died" is a song that really fits the subject, in that it starts with great promise, gets maudlin pretty early, gets hung up on something it can't get over, and just repeats itself for most of its runtime.  It doesn't have the heart left to move on and just peters out after having gone on too long without a solo or breakdown or anything to make it fresh.

(And for the record: there was one more song Layne Staley did.  It was a cover of "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" for "The Faculty" soundtrack as part of Class Of '99.  If not for Wikipedia, I would never have remembered this movie, this band or this song's existence, but this shit got quite a bit of airplay at the time because it was at the peak of the "Hard Rock bands must only have cover songs for singles" era.)

Kurt Cobain kinda sounds like a cut-rate Glenn Danzig on this song.  It's not a Nirvana sounding tune at all.  The bass line sounds like late 60's garage rock.  "White Lace And Strange" sounds like someone smashed The White Stripes and The Misfits together in an inexpert manor.

For the record, "1/2 Full" was the first music video Pearl Jam released since 1998's "Do The Evolution", making it only their second video in a decade (then like four more from this album came out and put that to bed, but still).  It's a swingy 3/4 blues number in A major.  As far as tracks from "Riot Act" go, it ain't half bad.  Certainly more inspired and lively from this, the most dirt average sounding PJ project yet.  The solo's particularly tasty.

"Boot Camp" is a damp squib of an album closer.  It's a two and a half minute aimless dirge that accidentally had the prophetic touch (a running theme for all of grunge it would seem, leaving the fan base to be hindsight Cassandras reading tea leaves in the form of lyric sheets their own writers couldn't decipher) by ending the album with the words "For good" just before the band broke up.  If I'd been ordering tracks, I'd have put "Tighter & Tigher" at the end, or on relisten maybe "Overfloater".  "Boot Camp" feels like an unnecessary addendum to an album that overstays its welcome and as a song isn't much to look at.

I can't believe this is how I'm scoring this:

"1/2 Full": 4
"Died": 3
"White Lace And Strange": 2
"Boot Camp": 1

TOTALS:

Alice In Chains: 236
Soundgarden: 233
Pearl Jam: 216
Nirvana: 205

Tomorrow, Alice In Chains (paradoxically) get "Live", while Soundgarden get a B-Side before an A-Side.  I guess you'll have to come back to figure out what that means...

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