Released on September 29, 1992.

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.

  • "Them Bones"

    I still maintain that this is the greatest opening track on any album from the ’90s.

  • Dam That River

    I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking: “Oh, Alice In Chains messes around with time signatures just like Soundgarden! Cool!”

  • "Rain When I Die"

    For whatever reason, this one reminds me of Friday afternoons. I’d get home from school, take care of my paper route, and put on Dirt while I waited for my ride to the high school football game. Not to watch the game, mind you, but to hang out with my band geek friends in the marching band.

  • "Down In A Hole"

    My buddy Mike and I always used to fight about what the “correct” track list was for Dirt. His CD copy had “Down In A Hole” buried at the end of the disc; my cassette had it as the forth track. Turns out he had and early pressing with the track listing that the label had suggested. Mine was the track listing the band wanted. So mine was correct!

  • "Sickman"

    Five cuts in and there’s already so much death on this album. So. Much. Death.

  • "Rooster"

    This would become a staple cover song in rock bands that I would end up playing with in high school and college, so it’s good that I got to learn the lyrics nice and early.

  • "Junkhead"

    Again, I’m listening to this on tape in ’92, so this song will always signify the beginning of Side Two for me.

  • "Dirt"

    If there’s a heavier song thematically from this era of grunge, I can’t think of it. The title track just crushes you.

  • "God Smack"

    I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times over the last 30 years and not once have I ever said: “Wow, this song title would make a GREAT name for a rock band!”

  • "Untitled"

    “I AM…IRON GOD!!!”


  • "Hate To Feel"

    What kept me coming back to Dirt again and again and again, among what I wrote about above, was the fact that there wasn’t a weak song on the lot. Every last song was and is essential to the overall experience.

  • "Angry Chair"

    My “Angry Chair” was in the Wakefield High School lecture hall and I would sit in it and listen to this song on repeat.

  • "Would?"

    No one has ever looked as cool in a music video as Layne Staley looks in this music video.

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