Jar of Flies: An Album Review

Jar of Flies: An Album Review

Kellan Raterman, Sports Editor '23

Album: Jar of Flies

Artist: Alice in Chains

Year: 1994

Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains was released in 1994 following their tour for the 1992 album, Dirt.  The band returned to Seattle after touring to find that they had been evicted from their apartments, so stayed at the studio for a week.  While they were temporarily crashing at the studio, they recorded seven songs within a week that they would eventually release.  In some ways, Jar of Flies is an addition or sequel to Dirt as they both feature dark, depressing, and sorrow filled material.  The main difference?  The sound.  Dirt is heavier with a metal influence while Jar of Flies features more acoustic ballad songs.  Dirt and Jar of Flies are two of my favorite albums/EPs of all time, but Jar of Flies has remained on top for me because of the raw emotion and authenticity it radiates.  The entire project is 31 minutes long and contains some of my favorite songs.

Rotten Apple

The beginning of one of the best three track runs on any album ever in my opinion.  The bass and the wah guitar that open this song set the tone for this one.  It feels like the  three strings are competing for the first minute of the song until they all blend together when Layne comes in. There are lyrics throughout this song, but the atmosphere created by the guitars and bass give it a similar feel to an instrumental track.  “Rotten Apple” opens the theme of the album well as Laynce sings about innocence and sinning which is pretty clear once you remember the song name is a biblical reference.  Layne Staley is also layering his voice during the chorus to create a harmonizing effect that creates a minor chord sound.  


“Nutshell” is genuinely one of the saddest songs I know.  There’s not anything too complex going on in this song, just some minor chords, an electric guitar solo, and a very unique strumming pattern.  Layne Staley gives anyone listening a look into his mind and his world during the band’s fame.  “And yet, I fight this battle all alone”.  The band’s frontman would make his last performance two years later and die eight years later from a drug overdose.  “Nutshell” almost feels like a cry for help from Layne Staley because of its authenticity.  

I Stay Away

The opening riff on the 12 string guitar is such a comforting sound to me.  The opening line from Layne Stayley, “Yeah, hey, I want to travel south this year”, is the most mesmerizing part of the EP.  “I Stay Away” is my favorite song from the EP partly because I remember being a kid and hearing my dad play this song in the car.  The lyrics are not as dark as “Nutshell” and actually show Layne trying to stay away from some of the toxic parts of his life.  His raspy vocals paired with the string instruments push this song into perfect territory.  The best part of this song might be the claymation music video though.

No Excuses 

“No Excuses” has more vocal harmonizing from Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell while they talk about Layne’s drug addiction and Jerry Cantrell’s loyalty.  This song has an upbeat feel from the punchy drums and guitar which is a “break” from the first three songs.  It feels more upbeat compared to the rest, but if you pay attention to the lyrics and content of the song, it is not the case. 

Whale & Wasp

“Whale & Wasp is a short instrumental track with two different sounding guitars playing together.  I wouldn’t consider this the “weak” point of the album because it almost feels more like an interlude if anything.  The tone on the “whale” sounding guitar creates a perfect echoey atmosphere.  

Don’t Follow

“Don’t Follow” begins as a smooth folk sounding song with Jerry Cantrell on the lead vocals and acoustic guitar.  There is also a perfectly incorporated harmonica that brings together the first half of the song.  About halfway through, the drums kick in and the track speeds up with Layne Staley coming in with more emotional lyrics.  I think the song can be interpreted differently based on which member’s lyrics you are looking at but I think it is generally about Layne Staley wanting to go back home to his original life.

Swing On This

“Swing On This” is another more upbeat feeling song mainly because of the blues and swing sound.  It feels like a transition into something else because of the difference in tone, attitude, and style.  Jerry Cantrell’s blues guitar solo at the end ties the album together but in an unexpected way.

Jar of Flies is a great short project that has plenty of emotion and sound packed into it.  I would give this album a 10 because it accomplishes everything it intends to do perfectly without any expectations; it was recorded within a week too.