August 21, 1990. Two seemingly-unrelated albums drop on the same day and end up helping pave the way for the coming rock revolution.
We’ll start in Seattle, where reformed glam metal band Alice In Chains released their debut album Facelift off the strength and momentum of their debut single “We Die Young,” which was a hit at metal radio. Again, this is August of 1990. Nirvana has yet to follow up Bleach with Nevermind. Pearl Jam is still two months from making their live debut. And Soundgarden is still a year away from their breakthrough album Badmotorfinger.
Now, were all three of those bands already on their way to their eventual destinations in the pantheon of rock? Sure, because there was already a ton of focus and attention on the Seattle scene. But Facelift, while a slow-burner of an album (it didn’t get much attention until the “Man In A Box” video made it into the rotation on MTV), is an important chapter in the story of Seattle. Alice In Chains, with their roots in the more mainstream styles of 80s metal, had a dimension and an appeal to fans that their Seattle peers did not.
Now, Jane’s Addiction were not a Seattle band. They’re from L.A. Nor was Ritual de lo habitual their debut: that was Nothing’s Shocking, released in 1988. But even with singles like “Jane Says” and “Mountain Song,” the band didn’t see much success outside of their native California and in a handful of cities that had alternative radio stations, like Boston.
The release of Ritual ended up being a bit of a perfect storm for the band. The video for “Been Caught Stealing” broke out of MTV’s Buzz Bin and ended up becoming the band’s most-viewed clip. And the year-long tour the band embarked upon to support Ritual included the headlining slot of the very first Lollapallooza tour. This added to Jane’s Addiction’s profile, and also upped the profile of alternative rock in general.
So while Jane’s Addiction and Alice In Chains weren’t part of the same scene, and the biggest thing in common between Facelift and Ritual de lo habitual is the release date, both albums truly did set the table for the grunge and alternative rock explosion that was set to detonate a year later.