Monday, October 4, 2010

Band 1: Mad Season

So, this is my first post. Expect it to be shitty.

So apparently, sometime in 1994, these guys got a wild hair up their asses, and decided to form a band. But who were these guys? None other than Layne Staley, the lead vocalist for Seattle-based grunge band Alice in Chains, Mike McCready, lead guitarist for Seattle-based alt. rock band Pearl Jam (Not grunge. I'll explain in a later post.), Barrett Martin, drummer for Seattle-based grunge band The Screaming Trees, and John Saunders, bassist for The Walkabouts, who were from... Well, you probably get it by now.

Surprisingly, Layne Staley was sober during this band, which lasted from '94-'99, and recorded one album 'Above', released on Columbia records. The band hit #2 in the charts with their most notable song, and first single "River of Deceit", which I'm listening to at the moment.

Anyways, enough of the brief history. So, some of you may be asking yourselves, if you don't already know, "Why does this band rock so fucking much?". Well, the band certainly wouldn't have been as awesome without Layne Staley. It's interesting that you can kinda hear the sobriety in his voice. In songs like Down In A Hole, Rotten Apple, and Frogs (just to name a few), he sounds... broken. Like he's just given up hope.

As goes with any of Layne Staley's work, there are some beautiful, spot-on harmonies in this album. It's almost nothing like anything he's ever done before.

Take track 8 for example. The song is called Long Gone Day, featuring Mark Lanegan, the lead vocalist for the Screaming Trees, and Skerik, who's done work with Critters Buggin', Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, and Garage a Tois on saxophone.

The song starts immediately with a very light drum rhythm, with guitar and bass, with Lanegan coming in soon after. "So much blood, I'm startin' to drown, runs from cold to colder..." he softly speaks into the microphone. His deep voice almost rattles the speakers. The quiet xylophone line comes in no sooner than Staley croaks out "Long Gone Day..." shortly followed by "Whoever said we wash away with the rain?". This song reminds me so much of walking around my neighborhood at 6:30 AM, listening to this song, taking in the taste, and crispness of the winter air.

But I digress.

The album's 6th track, Lifeless Dead comes at you with an almost haunting, heavy guitar line. The band soon joins in after, as Staley manages to speak out the first lines of the song. This was one of the heavier tracks of the album, and god damn it, it blends so well with the soft work of the first 5, and the next 4 tracks of the song, which includes another heavy song "I Don't Know Anything", which follows this one.

                                                          Photos from Mad Season: Live

In 1997, as the hype had already wound down, McCready and Saunders and Martin fought tooth and nail to revive Mad Season, but given Staley's worsening health due to a severe heroin addiction, he politely declined. In the end, they recruited Mark Lanegan as the new permanent singer. Seems a bit odd, doesn't it? It's pretty hard to replace a guy like Layne.


"I know I'm near death," he said. "I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way. I know I have no chance. It's too late. I never wanted the public's thumbs' up about this fucking drug use. Don't try to contact any Alice in Chains members. They are not my friends."

These were  the hardest words for me to read in his final interview, conducted only 2 months before his death in April of 2002. After the death of his ex-fiancee, Demri Parrott, he became recluse. Not letting anybody know when he was home (not answering the phone, door, making almost no audible noise), he had already been dead for 2 weeks when the police entered his condo with his parents in the University District.

I listen to the last song "All Alone" as I finish this post.

The guitar sings a Pink Floyd-esque line, as Layne Staley sings out the last line "We're all alone..."

Rest in peace, Layne. We all miss you.