ALICE IN CHAINS — Facelift

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ALICE IN CHAINS - Facelift cover
3.69 | 51 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1990

Tracklist

1. We Die Young (2:32)
2. Man In The Box (4:46)
3. Sea Of Sorrow (5:49)
4. Bleed The Freak (4:01)
5. I Can't Remember (3:42)
6. Love, Hate, Love (6:27)
7. It Ain't Like That (4:37)
8. Sunshine (4:44)
9. Put You Down (3:16)
10. Confusion (5:44)
11. I Know Somethin' ('Bout You) (4:21)
12. Real Thing (4:03)

Total Time 54:08

Line-up/Musicians

- Layne Staley / vocals
- Jerry Cantrell / guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Starr / bass, backing vocals
- Sean Kinney / drums, percussion

About this release

August 21, 1990
Columbia

Thanks to Pekka, UMUR, Lynx33, Unitron for the updates

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ALICE IN CHAINS FACELIFT reviews

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siLLy puPPy
ALICE IN CHAINS ushered in the 1990s with this little gem of a debut album FACELIFT. Although it is kind of a transitional album morphing from a glam metal act called Alice 'N Chains, this album hit the road as full fledged alternative metal that was the very first grunge album to be certified platinum. I'm not sure why Nirvana gets so much credit as innovators in this type of sound since it was ALICE IN CHAINS who IMHO blew them away by consistently delivering a superior product. Not only did this band change the course of alternative metallic music by bringing back a blues oriented sound but they also bucked the trend of increasingly faster tempos that were developing in most forms of metal and slowing and tuning down more synonymous with the doom metal bands of the day.

FACELIFT was not an instant success until MTV began to play “Man In The Box” and then all hell broke loose and they rest is history. Two other singles “We Die Young” from the demo and “Sea Of Sorrow” helped propel this album into rock n roll history. For many years those singles were the ones I loved the most and in a way they still ring as the best tracks on the album, but after paying more attention to the rest of the album it is clear that this band found a unique niche in the musical world. Not really considered metal per se at the time, they have since then become recognized as such existing in that grey area between hard rock, blues rock and alternative metal. Nomenclature matters not to me. This is a band that is clearly subordinate to Layne Staley's vocals and musical vision.

This album constitutes a great bit of what ALICE IN CHAINS would further in their career but they do have a few red herrings from the past lingering on this one. The track “I Know Somethin' ('Bout You) “ is a bit of funky metal that reminds me more of what Extreme would be famous for. “Put You Down” sounds a bit too much like glam metal riffage that they were evolving out of. Many of these tracks seem like prototypes for the much better songwriting that would take full flight on the next release “Sap.” Overall this might have been a better album if it was trimmed down a little but not a bad debut. This strong album is dwarfed a bit by the stronger releases that followed and I have to admit that I focused less on this one and more than the others but after closer attention being paid I have to admit that this is a very good album in its own right. The best place for any potential ALICE IN CHAINS fan is to start right here on this first release.
UMUR
"Facelift" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Seattle based alternative rock/metal act Alice in Chains. The album was released through Columbia Records in August 1990. While the band´s second full-length studio album "Dirt (1992)" was the album that really broke them through, "Facelift" was also quite successful, both in terms of sales and artistic recognition. The early nineties were a fertile breeding ground for alternative thinking rock/metal artists and Alice in Chains prospered from that.

The music on "Facelift" imediately sets the melancholic/depressive tone that is the red thread through the band´s entire discography. The mood is occasionally a bit more "light" than on later releases, but we´re generally dealing with a very dark and brooding rock/metal release. Lead vocalist Layne Staley has a distinct nasal vocal style that´s defining for the band´s sound but the band´s signature harmony vocals are also an important part of the sound. Main composer and guitarist Jerry Cantrell sings the harmonies accompanying the lead vocals. It´s interesting how some voices compliment each other so well that magic is created (simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles come to mind) and that´s certainly the case here too.

While "Facelift" opens with "We Die Young", "Man in the Box", "Sea of Sorrow" and "Bleed the Freak", which are probably the best known tracks from the album, because of their status as singles (the first three mentioned were also released as promotional videos and frequently aired on MTV in those days), the rest of the album is also packed with strong material. The band take a few tours into funky metal territory but otherwise we´re treated to heavy catchy riffing, soulful guitar solos, strong melodies, dark themed lyrics and a tight playing rythm section delivering original sounding alternative rock/metal.

The sound production is strong although it could have done without a little of the chorus effects used. All in all "Facelift" is a strong release though and considering that this is a debut album it´s a VERY strong release. I guess some of the excursions into funk territory are a bit "off" in the bigger picture and the consistency of the album suffers slightly because of that, but other than that I find "Facelift" highly recommendable. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.
Stooge
This is an oddity of sorts for a metal band’s debut. Having started out as a glam/hair band named Alice N Chainz, Facelift serves as a transition album. Maybe that’s why they called it Facelift.

I’m not saying there is a ton of the glam stuff on this album, but through the catchiness and groove on tracks like “We Die Young”, “It Ain’t Like That”, and “I Know Something (Bout You)”, I can hear it slightly. “Put You Down” even reminds me of something Guns N Roses might perform.

But the band really carved a niche for themselves with a rather unique sound. Several tracks blend dark atmospheres and up-beat/positive energy to great effect. This is evident in some of the brightest tracks on the album: “Bleed The Freak”, “Sea of Sorrow”, “Man In The Box” and “Love, Hate, Love”.

Facelift was an excellent way for Alice In Chains to kick of their debut in the mainstream, and helped to start a wave of grunge and alternative metal band. Not an essential album, but is easily a worthwhile purchase.
Phonebook Eater
Not bad for a debut album! A nice collection of songs, some will eventually become classic Alice In Chains songs. I have to admit though that this album never really convinced me, until now. I found it boring and I thought the songs, with some exceptions, were annoying and repetitive. Now I really like most of them.

The style is more heavy metal/ alt metal than grunge, so the band is still far from reaching maturity. With their following album, "Dirt", their absolute masterpiece, they will definitely reach a more mature sound, so anyway they weren't that far to maturity when this album was released.

Within these songs you can already hear singer Layne Stanley's pain and love for drugs, like in songs such as "I Can't Remember" and "Put You Down", even though they're some love songs, or some that concern animal abuse, young gangsters, and fear of death. So overall it is very dark, except for the love songs.

Some of the best AIC songs are here: "We Die Young", a short but strong song, very aggressive, it's one of my favorites. "Man In The Box", a true AIC classic, with a catchy melody and again a very aggressive riff. "Sea Of Sorrow" is another excellent song, very underrated even though it was released as a single. "Bleed The Freak" is another classic, I love the more calm part, very effective. "I Can't Remember" is another great song, with a catchy riff and lyrics concerning drugs. "Love, Hate, Love" is the longest song off the album, 6 minutes. A great song, even though the lyrics aren't so powerful. "It Ain't Like That" is pretty good, I just went to an AIC concert and they played it, with my big surprise. the rest of the songs go from OK to quite irritating, and very disappointing. I really don't like it when a band on an album concentrates all the good songs/ singles at the beginning, leaving all the crappy songs at the end.

To sum up, a really good album, even though it has it's defects. I recommend it to any AIC fan and to whoever likes the very first grunge albums.
Negoba
Promising Debut but Much More to Come

Alice in Chains gets lumped with the Seattle grunge scene, but when "Man In The Box" emerged in 1990/91, Alice was just one of many bands trying to push the metal envelope. Everyone knew that the cookbook was spent and lots of bands were trying to inject some new energy. On Facelift, Alice still seems like a metal band, though one with some new tricks up its sleeve. Layne Staley was clearly a new breed of vocalist, and the intelligent harmonies of Jerry Cantrell were only starting to emerge.

But the guitars are big and the music mixed the heaviness and seriousness of Metallica with a little lighter and less complex feel of more traditional metal bands. "Man in the Box" was a deceptively simple song that was remarkably well put together. As a guitarist, I always enjoyed playing the unison line with the vocalist on this song, something no other song ever offered. The other "hits" like "We Die Young" and "Bleed the Freak" were solid. The rest of the album was solid enough but not much sticks with you.

Alice will hit its peak with the follow up, Dirt, but some of their concert showcase songs remained the big ones from Facelift.

Bottom Line: Historically essential, but musically eclipsed by the band's next.
Pekka
A big bunch of new bands emerged from Seattle underground around the end of the 80s and perhaps the heaviest of them all was Alice in Chains. They debuted in 1990 with Facelift and it didn't take long until they were opening shows for the likes of Slayer and Megadeth, even though their style was very different.

Many of these songs were recorded for demos in the previous years, and judging by the demo tracks featured in the Music Bank box set and the Nothing Safe compilation, they slowed down their tempos considerably for this album. The demo of the opener We Die Young might be my favourite AIC track ever and luckily this slower version works like a charm as well, despite the slightly less passionate vocal performance by Layne Staley. Classic heavy metal, as is the next number Man in the Box with its crunching one chord riff. This song and my third favourite from the album, Bleed the Freak, somewhat suffer from a similar problem of being overshadowed by other recorded renditions by the band. The versions released on the Live album put these originals to shame with their burning drive, especially Man in the Box. Comparisons aside they're both brilliant tracks in their original form as well and definitely highlights of this album.

The rest of the material can't quite live up to the promise made by the starting tracks, but most of the album is very solid stuff especially coming from such a young band. They were still somewhat finding their feet which explains for example the funk riffing of I Know Something ('Bout You), a style they wouldn't try again on their later works, but most of what made the unique Alice In Chains sound with the hard riffing and haunting vocal harmonies was already intact.

A solid debut with a couple of classic killer tracks. Worth every penny you put into it but not really essential.

Members reviews

Silver Shade of Lead
This is AIC's first LP and for better or worse, it shows. Altough the production values hadn't yet reached the same level of its follow-ups, the band makes up for it with some of their hardest songs. In fact, the album kicks off with We Die Young, and follows through on a mind-crushing first half with Man In The Box, Sea of Sorrow and Bleed The Freak. Crunching guitar chords, powerful vocal deliverances and an electrifying hint of fretboard pyromania are telling us we're in for a tour de force metal album.

After this they seem to lose some focus and the stoner side of AIC (if there's any other) kicks in and are more than worthy of reference: Love, Hate, Love, a dark and disturbing epic piece of sorts, whose bone-chilling ambience is driven through Cantrell's moody, layered guitars and Layne's madness piercing through the mic; It Aint't Like That, another potential hit in the dawning grunge scene; Sunshine and Real Thing bringing us to the much overlooked funny bone in AIC, where the band's depicted mental illness takes a turn to the hilarious.

To sum it up, if you ask anyone about metal in the 90's you'll more than probably come across Facelift. For some, it is a sort of forgotten counterpart to Dirt, however, after a couple of spins it's more than capable of holding its own. 4 well deserved stars.

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