CD reviews: Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stone Age, Barenaked Ladies

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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Alice in Chains
  • Queens of the Stone Age
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    Queens of the Stone Age

  • Barenaked Ladies
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    Barenaked Ladies

Alice in Chains

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here/Virgin/Universal

It has been a decade since Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley passed away and more than twice that time since the band released its breakthrough 1992 album, “Dirt.”

After losing such an influential member, most bands might just hang it up, but Alice in Chains instead brought on a new singer, William DuVall, after he performed a few shows with the band following Staley’s death.

The 2009 album “Back Gives Way to Blue,” the first with DuVall at the helm, was well-received by fans and critics alike.

On Alice in Chains’ latest, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,” the band continues its revitalized winning streak with an album that captures the band’s trademark gloomy alternative metal sound.

This new album is not likely to become a classic such as “Dirt” or “Jar of Flies,” but the music dovetails nicely into the rest of Alice in Chains’ output.

Listening to the rumbling bass line that starts “Lab Monkey” or the crunching guitar riffs that anchor “Hollow,” it is apparent that the band has tried to keep the signature Alice in Chains sound intact.

DuVall’s voice, while not identical to Staley’s, is similar enough that when he sings the band’s older songs in concert, the difference isn’t jarring.

This band, one of the few of the grunge age still around, should be commended for continuing its musical journey despite some pretty major setbacks.



Key Tracks: “Hollow,” “Stone,” “Lab Monkey”

Queens of the Stone Age

... Like Clockwork/Matador



Most music enthusiasts have no problem agreeing that there is something undeniably original about the way the band Queens of the Stone Age plays rock ’n’ roll.

What’s a bit more difficult, though, is pinpointing exactly what it is that makes the music so attractively addictive.

From where I stand, it’s the way that Josh Homme and his bandmates compose music that, while rock ’n’ roll is at its core, continually colors outside the lines.

One might find a bit of punk irreverence on one track, a little Broadway musical flamboyance on another and a touch of Black Sabbath metal later still.

The music is always delivered in a wonderfully slippery manner that causes it to glide into your ears.

On Queens of the Stone Age’s latest, “... Like Clockwork,” Homme and company have delivered another collection of cerebral and emotional songs.

“Keep Your Eyes Peeled” is a great opening choice, with its plodding beat coupled with Homme’s falsetto vocals setting the mood for the rest of the album.

Elsewhere, some of the more standout tracks include “I Sat by the Ocean,” “My God is the Sun” and “I Appear Missing.”

Especially great is “If I Had a Tail,” which just might be the most commercially appealing song the band has written since “No One Knows.”

Throw in guest appearances by folks such as Dave Grohl and Elton John, and you have a superb album from a band that continually redefines what rock ’n’ roll can be.



Key Tracks: “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” “I Sat by the Ocean,” “If I Had a Tail”

Barenaked Ladies

Grinning Streak/Vanguard



When Steven Page, one of the Barenaked Ladies’ founding members, left the band abruptly in 2009, many fans wondered if the remaining members would be able to continue its output of creative and often hilarious songs.

Page either wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the songs on the Barenaked Ladies’ first few albums, so the concern was warranted.

Fortunately for the band, its remaining members all sing and play multiple instruments, so there was no lack of talent.

The subsequent release without Page by the band, 2010’s “All In Good Time,” proved that there was life after the departure of their cohort.

On the latest, “Grinning Streak,” the band still strives for the same sort of catchy songwriting that made hits out of tunes such as “If I Had $1,000,000” and “One Week.” The problem with “Grinning Streak” is that those brilliantly entertaining moments are in short supply on the new album.

To be fair, there are some catchy tunes, including the one-two punch of “Limits” and “Boomerang” to start things off.

However, the majority of the music on “Grinning Streak” lacks the same sort of melodic irreverence that got the band noticed in the first place.

Even promising titles such as “Did I Say That Out Loud?” come up short in the creative department.

The band likely will weather this low point in its catalog, and it still put on a tremendous live performance.

See for yourself July 27 as the band performs with Ben Folds Five and Guster at the Family Circle Stadium on Daniel Island.



Key Tracks: “Limits,” “Boomerang,” “Odds Are”



By Devin Grant