Facelift (album)

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Facelift
Alice In Chains-Facelift.jpg
Studio album by Alice in Chains
Released August 21, 1990[1]
Recorded December 1989 – April 1990
Studio London Bridge Studio, Seattle & Capitol Recording Studio, Hollywood
Genre
Length 54:02
Label Columbia
Producer Dave Jerden
Alice in Chains chronology
We Die Young
(1990)
Facelift
(1990)
Sap
(1992)
Singles from Facelift
  1. "We Die Young"
    Released: July 1990
  2. "Man in the Box"
    Released: January 1991
  3. "Bleed the Freak"
    Released: 1991
  4. "Sea of Sorrow"
    Released: 1992

Facelift is the debut studio album by the American rock band Alice in Chains. The album was released on August 21, 1990.[1] "We Die Young", "Man in the Box", "Bleed the Freak" and "Sea of Sorrow" were released as singles. "Man In The Box" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal in 1992.[3] The album peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard 200 chart,[4] was certified platinum and has gone on to be certified double-platinum by the RIAA for shipments of two million copies in the United States.[5] Facelift became the first album from the grunge movement to be certified gold on September 11, 1991.[5][6]

Background and recording[edit]

Local promoter Randy Hauser became aware of the band at a concert, and offered to pay for demo recordings. However, one day before the band was due to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, police shut down the studio during the biggest marijuana raid in the state's history.[7] The final demo – dubbed The Treehouse Tapes – found its way to managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver, who also managed the Seattle-based Soundgarden. Curtis and Silver passed the demo to Columbia Records' A&R representative Nick Terzo, who set up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. Based on The Treehouse Tapes (sold by the band at shows), Ienner signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989.[7]

Alice in Chains became a top priority of the label, who released the band's first official recording in July 1990: the promotional EP We Die Young. Its lead single and title song became a hit on metal radio. After its success, the label rushed Alice in Chains' debut album into production with producer Dave Jerden.[8] “I told Jerry Cantrell, ‘Metallica took Tony Iommi and sped him up. What you’ve done is you’ve slowed him down again,’" Jerden recalled. "He looked at me and said, ‘You got it.’ That’s how I got the gig.”[9]

Drummer Sean Kinney claims to have played this album with a broken hand:

I almost didn't play on the record - they started rehearsing with the drummer from Mother Love Bone, Greg Gilmore. I was sitting there playing with one hand, guiding him through it. Dave Jerden came in and they started to try to do it. He was like, 'Screw it - pull the plug. This is not going to be the same.' Luckily, we took a tiny bit of time off. I had that cast on for a while, and was like, 'I can't miss this.' I cut my cast off in the studio and kept a bucket of ice by the drum set. Kept my hand iced down and played with a broken hand. I tried not to do that again - your first big break, and you fuck it up.[10]

Facelift was recorded at London Bridge Studio in Seattle and Capitol Recording Studio in Hollywood from December 1989 to April 1990. Footage from the Facelift sessions can be found on Alice in Chains' Music Bank: The Videos DVD.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Guitarist Jerry Cantrell stated the album was intended to have a "moody aura" that was a "direct result of the brooding atmosphere and feel of Seattle."[11] Regarding the music for "Man in the Box", Cantrell said, "That whole beat and grind of that is when we started to find ourselves; it helped Alice become what it was."[12] Cantrell also credited "I Can't Remember" for helping the band find its sound.[12] "It Ain't Like That" came out of a riff that Cantrell cited as a mistake, however he called it "a cool mistake."[12]

Cantrell called "Love, Hate, Love" the "masterpiece of that record," adding about the song that Staley's vocals are "amazing" and that it features one of his favorite guitar solos he ever performed.[12]

Regarding the lyrical content, Cantrell said he wrote "We Die Young" after "riding the bus to rehearsal and [seeing] all these 9, 10, 11 year old kids with beepers dealing drugs. The sight of a 10 year old kid with a beeper and a cell phone dealing drugs equaled "We Die Young" to me."[12] In a recorded interview with MuchMusic USA, vocalist Layne Staley stated that the lyrics for "Man in the Box" are about censorship in the mass media, and "I was really stoned when I wrote it."[13]

Discussing "Bleed the Freak", Cantrell stated that the lyrics represent "us against the world, those people who put you down."[12]

Cantrell wrote "Sunshine" about his mother's death.[14]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[2]
Kerrang!Favorable link
Q4/5 stars[15]
Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[16]

Facelift was released on August 21, 1990, peaking at number 42 in the summer of 1991 on the Billboard 200 chart.[17] It was the first album from the grunge movement to reach the top 50 in America on the Billboard 200, and the first to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on September 11, 1991,[5][6] followed by Nirvana's Nevermind on November 27, 1991.[18]

Facelift included the singles "We Die Young", "Man in the Box", and "Sea of Sorrow", all of which had accompanying music videos. The album was a critical success, with "Hollywood" Steve Huey of AllMusic citing Facelift as "one of the most important records in establishing an audience for grunge and alternative rock among hard rock and heavy metal listeners."[2]

Facelift was not an instant success, selling under 40,000 copies in the first six months of release, until MTV added "Man in the Box" to regular daytime rotation.[19]

"Man in The Box" hit number 18 on the Mainstream Rock charts, with the album's follow up single, "Sea of Sorrow", reaching number 27,[20] and in six weeks Facelift sold 400,000 copies in the US.[19]

Alice in Chains was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal Grammy Award in 1992 for "Man in the Box", but lost to Van Halen for their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.[3] The music video for "Man in the Box" was nominated for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.[21]

In June 2017, Ozzy Osbourne ranked Facelift at number 2 on his list of "10 Favorite Metal Albums".[22]

Tour[edit]

The band continued to hone its audience, opening for such artists as Iggy Pop,[23] Van Halen, Poison,[11] and Extreme.[19] In early 1991, Alice in Chains landed the opening slot for the Clash of the Titans with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer, exposing the band to a wide metal audience.[24] During the tour the band found themselves subject to some hostile audiences; however, Anthrax bassist Frank Bello recalls them earning the respect of others by standing up for themselves: "If there was a guy starting shit, Layne would jump into the audience and beat the FUCK outta that guy!"[25] Michael Christopher of PopMatters observed "With 1990's Facelift, before Nirvana blew the scene wide open, Seattle’s Alice in Chains were getting a metal push, thrown on tour with the likes of Slayer and Megadeth, repeatedly booed off stage in a genre where they didn’t belong."[26] The band later released the video compilation Live Facelift, which was filmed at the Moore Theatre in 1990.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Jerry Cantrell, except where noted.

No.TitleLyricsMusicLength
1."We Die Young"  2:32
2."Man in the Box"Layne Staley 4:46
3."Sea of Sorrow"  5:49
4."Bleed the Freak"  4:01
5."I Can't Remember"Staley, Cantrell 3:42
6."Love, Hate, Love"Staley 6:26
7."It Ain't Like That" Cantrell, Mike Starr, Sean Kinney4:37
8."Sunshine"  4:44
9."Put You Down"  3:16
10."Confusion"StaleyCantrell, Starr5:44
11."I Know Somethin (Bout You)"  4:22
12."Real Thing"Staley 4:03
Total length:54:02

Outtakes and non-album tracks[edit]

"Killing Yourself", recorded during the Facelift sessions, was featured as the B-side to the 1990 "We Die Young" vinyl single. It has never been issued on CD.

Demos for the songs "I Can't Have You Blues", "Whatcha Gonna Do", "Social Parasite", "Bleed the Freak", "Sea of Sorrow", and "Killing Yourself" were featured on Alice in Chains' 1988 demo tape.[12] Remixes of these recordings were later included on the band's 1999 box set, Music Bank. A demo of "We Die Young" from the same sessions was released exclusively on the 1999 Nothing Safe: Best of the Box compilation.

Further 1988 demos of the songs "Chemical Addiction", "Fairytale Love Story", "Queen of the Rodeo", "Bite the Bullet", "King of the Kats", "I Can't Remember", "Sunshine", "The Real Thing", and "Suffragette City" (a David Bowie cover) circulate on various bootlegs in poor quality. A live version of "Queen of the Rodeo" features on the 2000 live album Live as well as the Music Bank box set. Regarding the songs featured on the 1988 demo tape, Cantrell said, "I guess with all those songs we were 'discovering' ourselves."[12]

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Album[edit]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
US Billboard 200[17] 42

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Peak
position
1991 "Man in the Box" US Main 18[27]
1992 "Sea of Sorrow" 27[28]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[29] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Alice in Chains' Facelift: 25 Album Facts". VH1. August 21, 2015. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Facelift". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  3. ^ a b "34th Grammy Awards - 1992". Rockonthenet.com. Archived from the original on 2008-01-05. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  4. ^ "Alice in Chains Chart History – Billboard 200 – Facelift". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "How Alice in Chains Bridged Rock Eras With 'Facelift'". Ultimate Classic Rock. August 21, 2015. Archived from the original on November 16, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Music Bank (Media notes). Alice in Chains. Columbia Records. 1996. 69580. 
  8. ^ "Discography – Dirt". Aliceinchains.com. Archived from the original on 2006-07-03. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  9. ^ musicradar.com/news/guitars/production-legend-dave-jerden-on-13-career-defining-records-586973
  10. ^ Prato, Greg. "Grunge is Dead:The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music." p. 261. April 2009.
  11. ^ a b Moses, Michael (September 1991). "Alice in Chains: Who is Alice and Why is She in Chains?". Rockbeat magazine. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  13. ^ "MuchMusic USA TV Interview" (last accessed November 21, 2006)
  14. ^ Darzin, Daina (January 1991). New Music Preview: Alice in Chains. Spin. Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  15. ^ "Alice In Chains - Facelift CD Album". Cduniverse.com. 1990-08-20. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  16. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Alice in Chains". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 13, cited March 17, 2010
  17. ^ a b "Alice in Chains - Artist chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  18. ^ "Nirvana (Nevermind) - Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b c Gill, Chris (September 1999). "Dirt". Guitar World.
  20. ^ "Singles". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  21. ^ "1991 MTV Video Music awards". Rockonthenet.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  22. ^ "Ozzy Osbourne's 10 Favorite Metal Albums". Rolling Stone. 26 June 2017. Archived from the original on 26 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  23. ^ Glickman, Simon. "Enotes - Alice in Chains". Enotes.com. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  24. ^ "Alice in Chains Guitarist Discusses 1990 Clash of the Titans tour, Touring With Ozzy". Blabbermouth.net. 2007-10-07. Archived from the original on 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  25. ^ Sunday Old School: Alice in Chains Archived 2012-09-21 at the Wayback Machine. Metal Underground.
  26. ^ Alice in Chains: Dirt < PopMatters Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback Machine. Christopher, Michael. PopMatters.
  27. ^ "Alice in Chains Chart History – Mainstream Rock – "Man In The Box"". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Alice in Chains Chart History – Mainstream Rock – "Sea of Sorrow"". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2017. 
  29. ^ "American album certifications – Alice in Chains – Facelift". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.