September 29, 1992: Alice In Chains Dirt drops, continuing the Seattle grunge rock explosion from the previous year.
Of course, the debut album from the band, Facelift, predated the ’91 explosion by a year. Or, one could argue, it helped set the stage in Seattle. Either way, by the time the fall of ’92 had rolled around, Alice In Chains was in a great position to take advantage of the groundwork laid by their brothers-in-grunge Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam in in the year leading up. It didn’t hurt at all the the band had written an album that was a legitimate rock masterpiece.
The numbers don’t lie, and you can see how many tracks from the album make our Top 30 list. But I don’t want to crunch numbers or talk too much in general about Dirt‘s legacy. I want to talk about how the album hit me at the time and how important it was to me then and still is now. And I have a feeling that, if you’re a rocker of a certain age, Dirt is dear to you in similar ways.
I was 15 years old and starting my junior hear in high school in the fall of ’92. And I was fully invested in the rock of the day. As a freshman, I’d copped Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, and Ten on cassette with my paper route money (shout out to Strawberries on Rt. 1 in Saugus). And I wore those tapes into the ground. I loved Nirvana’s punk-influenced sound. Soundgarden’s riffs and unconventional time signatures spoke to my budding music nerdery. Pearl Jam sounded massive, almost cavernous, on their debut. None of that prepared me for what Alice In Chains did on Dirt.
Alice In Chains ‘Dirt’ Turns 30
Dirt is a celebration of desperation. In the years to come, as friends of mine would struggle with addiction, the albums themes revealed themselves more and more. But as a moody, hormone-addled 15-yr-old, Dirt‘s darkness spoke to me. The album was my theme music, my rallying cry, my constant companion as I attempted to navigate the sticky, awkward emotions of the suburban American teen. Listening to the album 30 years on brings me back to those days and those feelings. But now, it’s with an appreciation for where I am today.
So thank you, Layne and Jerry and Mike and Sean, for creating something that was essential then and is essential now and forever will be. Now, let’s travel through together, track by track.