Grunge isn't really known for being a cheery genre of music. However, while most bands of the type (Pearl Jam comes to mind) disguised their moody songwriting with massive hooks that won audiences across the country, Alice In Chains’ brutal second release, Dirt, offers no such relief.
If the dark song titles (“Junkhead”, “Hate To Feel”) weren’t enough of a telling sign of the album’s graphic nature, the disturbing suicidal and drug-related lyrics, which are still shocking even by today’s standards, were more than enough for it to secure a spot as the darkest of the entire decade. Appropriately on such an album, the production is extremely raw and dirty to the point where it makes Nirvana’s extremely offbeat In Utero look genuinely radio-friendly by comparison.
Despite being far from easy (or fun) to listen to at times, Dirt still remains a genre classic to this day, largely due to all the Alice trademarks (sludgy Sabbath-esque tempos, Layne Staley’s moaned vocals) being here in their full apocalyptic glory. In fact, the album contains some of the band’s best (and best-known) songs, whether it’s the grim war fable “Rooster”, the comparatively humorous “Them Bones”, or the bleak addiction portrait “God Smack”. However, it’s the relatively accessible hit “Would?” that’s the true standout, thanks to its surprising melody.