Alice In Chains

Columbia Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Pop quiz: You've just released your first full-length album, and have some members of the press (as well as fans) proclaiming you the next kings of the Seattle scene. Do you: a) Put out another album as soon as possible, even if it's not your best work, b) take some additional time to write a killer album and run the risk of having the fans forget who you are, or c) slam on the brakes and release an EP of music that keeps you in the public's eye, but is made up of music your fans wouldn't be expecting?

Time's up. If you're Alice In Chains, the answer was "c" - or Sap, as it's better known. If fans were expecting a crunch-fest on this four-song release (really five, but we'll get to that shortly), then they were in for the shock of their lives. But what this release did, besides keep them in the eyes of the record-buying public, was to expand their musical horizons - and it worked.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Layne Staley and crew decided to break tradition and dare to explore their acoustic side - an experiment that is a lot more fun than it would sound like on the outside back in 1992. The opening track "Brother" starts the journey into a different dimension of Alice In Chains's music. Jerry Cantrell's mastery of the guitar and the wonderfully bizarre sounds he can squeeze out of it guarantees that the band's unique flavor isn't lost on the acoustic setting.

"Got Me Wrong" is the best-known track from Sap, and it does re-introduce the electric guitar to the album. However, the importance isn't placed on the electric work necessarily (although it is featured in the choruses). Instead, the texture that its interplay with the acoustic backbone creates is what's special about it.

"Right Turn" is almost like an alternative campfire sing-along, one whose power builds as the song continues. Likewise, "Am I Inside" is a tasty way to "conclude" this all-too-brief album... or is it?

Just when you think that things are winding down on Sap, the uncredited fifth track (which I think is called "Love Song") kicks in. While it has some challenging musical portions, it mostly is just the band farting around and cursing in the background. It is a strange addition to this album, and it is not necessarily one I enjoyed this time around when I listened to it. Sap was an experiment in the lab, to be sure, but I really didn't need to hear what happened when the band drank the remaining chemicals.

Sap was a prelude to Alice In Chains's next full-length work Dirt, and it also served to pave the way for Jar Of Flies, which would further investigate the band's acoustic side. (Had Jar Of Flies come first, I don't think Alice In Chains's fans would have been ready to take that album to number one; by the time it did hit the shelves, we were prepared for it.)

Sap is still a worthwhile album to search out, and is a nice way to pass a short amount of time - even with the arranged stupidity that closes out the album.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.