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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Alice in Chains
Black Gives Way to Blue
Virgin

Rating: 7.6/10 ?


November 2, 2009
Alice in Chains, sporting a dead genre and a deader lead singer, has found a surprisingly logical progression from their old music with a new vocalist out of nowhere after a thirteen-year hiatus. Out of seemingly impossible odds, Black Gives Way to Blue is actually a very strong record-better than the new Pearl Jam at least.

Of the "big four" grunge bands, Alice in Chains always displayed the most prominent metal influence, but on Black the crunch is even more pronounced, thanks to crisper, more drum-heavy production than previous, constantly threatening to spill over the fence into purer thrash entirely than anything the band did in their first incarnation.

Clearly the most pressing question of the new "reunion" was how new blood William DuVall would handle Layne Staley's idiosyncratic vocal duties (sure, imitators continue to spring up a decade after the original band's demise, but we're not talking about the Days of the New guy here). Except for a couple songs in the lagging middle section, DuVall conjures an eerie Staley impersonation, rendered almost totally innocuous when helped by surviving co-founder Jerry Cantrell's harmonies; there are moments where it's impossible to tell that the line-up has shifted at all.

Some of the songs even stack up against the band's original catalogue: the slow, pounding heaviness of "Check My Brain" explodes into an oddly catchy chorus with zero warning. Per usual, songs alternate between this brand of jittery sludge and the occasional Jar of Flies-style acoustic track ("Your Decision"). It's after the first reminder that this band always aimed for a diverse sonic palette that the listener starts to get bored. Part of why they're not actually a metal band is explained by the lack of any real reason for audaciously chosen first single "A Looking in View" to go nowhere for seven minutes.

Still, for an album that had potential to be a legacy-ruining disaster, one or two gaffes are a small price, especially when the album closes with "Private Hell" and the title track, both of which successfully channel not just Staley's voice but the actual feel and urgency of Dirt, the masterpiece he laid claim to when he was alive.

Reviewed by JJ Lang


See other reviews by JJ Lang

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