Facelift (album)

Last updated on 7 July 2017

Facelift is the debut studio album by the American rock band Alice in Chains. The album was released on August 21, 1990. The album was certified platinum and has gone on to be certified double-platinum by the RIAA for shipments of two million copies in the United States.

Alice In Chains-Facelift.jpg
Alice In Chains-Facelift.jpg

Background and recording

Local promoter Randy Hauser became aware of the band at a concert, and offered to pay for demo recordings. However, one day before the band was due to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, police shut down the studio during the biggest marijuana raid in the history of the state.[3] The final demo was named The Treehouse Tapes, and found its way to the music managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver, who also managed the Seattle-based band Soundgarden. Curtis and Silver passed on the demo to Columbia Records' A&R representative Nick Terzo, who set up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. Based on The Treehouse Tapes (a 1988 demo tape sold by the band at shows), Ienner signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989.[3]

Alice in Chains soon became a top priority of the label, who released the band's first official recording in July 1990, a promotional EP We Die Young. The EP's lead single, "We Die Young", became a hit on metal radio. After its success, the label rushed Alice in Chains' debut album into production with producer Dave Jerden.[4] Drummer Sean Kinney claims to have played this album with a broken hand:

"I almost didn't play on the record - they started rehearsing with the drummer from Mother Love Bone, Greg Gilmore. I was sitting there playing with one hand, guiding him through it. Dave Jerden came in and they started to try to do it. He was like, 'Screw it - pull the plug. This is not going to be the same.' Luckily, we took a tiny bit of time off. I had that cast on for a while, and was like, 'I can't miss this.' I cut my cast off in the studio and kept a bucket of ice by the drum set. Kept my hand iced down and played with a broken hand. I tried not to do that again - your first big break, and you fuck it up."[5]

Facelift was recorded at London Bridge Studio in Seattle and Capitol Recording Studio in Hollywood from December 1989 to April 1990. Footage from the Facelift sessions can be found on Alice in Chains' Music Bank: The Videos DVD.

Music and lyrics

Guitarist Jerry Cantrell stated the album was intended to have a "moody aura" that was a "direct result of the brooding atmosphere and feel of Seattle."[6] Regarding the music for "Man in the Box", Cantrell said, "That whole beat and grind of that is when we started to find ourselves; it helped Alice become what it was."[7] Cantrell also credited "I Can't Remember" for helping the band find its sound.[7] "It Ain't Like That" came out of a riff that Cantrell cited as a mistake, however he called it "a cool mistake."[7] Cantrell called "Love, Hate, Love" the "masterpiece of that record," adding about the song that Staley's vocals are "amazing" and that it features one of his favorite guitar solos he ever performed.[7] Regarding the lyrical content, Cantrell said he wrote "We Die Young" after "riding the bus to rehearsal and [seeing] all these 9, 10, 11 year old kids with beepers dealing drugs. The sight of a 10 year old kid with a beeper and a cell phone dealing drugs equaled "We Die Young" to me."[7] In a recorded interview with MuchMusic USA, vocalist Layne Staley stated that the lyrics for "Man in the Box" are about censorship in the mass media, and "I was really stoned when I wrote it."[8] Discussing "Bleed the Freak", Cantrell stated that the lyrics represent "us against the world, those people who put you down."[7] Cantrell wrote "Sunshine" about his mother's death.[9]

Release and reception

Facelift was released on August 21, 1990, peaking at number 42 in the summer of 1991 on the Billboard 200 chart.[12] Facelift included the singles "We Die Young", "Man in the Box", and "Sea of Sorrow", all of which had accompanying music videos. The album was a critical success, with "Hollywood" Steve Huey of AllMusic citing Facelift as "one of the most important records in establishing an audience for grunge and alternative rock among hard rock and heavy metal listeners."[1] It was also the first grunge album to reach the top 50 in America on the Billboard 200, the first to go platinum.

Facelift was not an instant success, selling under 40,000 copies in the first six months of release, until MTV added "Man in the Box" to regular daytime rotation.[13] The single hit number 18 on the Mainstream Rock charts, with the album's follow up single, "Sea of Sorrow", reaching number 27,[14] and in six weeks Facelift sold 400,000 copies in the US.[13] Facelift was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America by the end of 1990. Alice in Chains was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy Award in 1992 for "Man in the Box", but lost to Van Halen for their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.[15] The music video for "Man in the Box" was nominated for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.[16]

In June 2017, Ozzy Osbourne ranked Facelift at number 2 on his list of "10 Favorite Metal Albums".[17]


The band continued to hone its audience, opening for such artists as Iggy Pop,[18] Van Halen, Poison,[6] and Extreme.[13] In early 1991, Alice in Chains landed the opening slot for the Clash of the Titans with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer, exposing the band to a wide metal audience.[19] During the tour the band found themselves subject to some hostile audiences, however Anthrax bassist Frank Bello recalls them earning the respect of others by standing up for themselves. "If there was a guy starting shit, Layne would jump into the audience and beat the FUCK outta that guy!",[20] Michael Christopher of PopMatters observed "With 1990's Facelift, before Nirvana blew the scene wide open, Seattle’s Alice in Chains were getting a metal push, thrown on tour with the likes of Slayer and Megadeth, repeatedly booed off stage in a genre where they didn’t belong".[21] The band later released the video compilation Live Facelift, which was filmed at the Moore Theatre in 1990.

Track listing

All tracks written by Jerry Cantrell, except where noted.

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "We Die Young"     2:32
2. "Man in the Box" Layne Staley   4:46
3. "Sea of Sorrow"     5:49
4. "Bleed the Freak"     4:01
5. "I Can't Remember" Staley, Cantrell   3:42
6. "Love, Hate, Love" Staley   6:26
7. "It Ain't Like That"   Cantrell, Mike Starr, Sean Kinney 4:37
8. "Sunshine"     4:44
9. "Put You Down"     3:16
10. "Confusion" Staley Cantrell, Starr 5:44
11. "I Know Somethin (Bout You)"     4:22
12. "Real Thing" Staley   4:03
Total length: 54:02

Outtakes, non-album tracks

"Killing Yourself", recorded during the Facelift sessions, was featured as the B-side to the 1990 "We Die Young" vinyl single. It has never been issued on CD.

Demos for the songs "I Can't Have You Blues", "Whatcha Gonna Do", "Social Parasite", "Bleed The Freak", "Sea of Sorrow", and "Killing Yourself" were featured on Alice in Chains' 1988 demo tape.[7] Remixes of these recordings were later included on the band's 1999 box set, Music Bank. A demo of "We Die Young" from the same sessions was released exclusively on the 1999 Nothing Safe: Best of the Box compilation.

Further 1988 demos of the songs "Chemical Addiction", "Fairytale Love Story", "Queen of the Rodeo", "Bite the Bullet", "King of the Kats", "I Can't Remember", "Sunshine", "The Real Thing", and "Suffragette City" (a David Bowie cover) circulate on various bootlegs in poor quality. A live version of "Queen of the Rodeo" features on the 2000 live album Live as well as the Music Bank box set. Regarding the songs featured on the 1988 demo tape, Cantrell said, "I guess with all those songs we were 'discovering' ourselves."[7]


Alice in Chains
Additional personnel
  • Kevin Shuss - Additional backing vocals
Production and management

Chart positions


"Man in the Box" (1990)
A sample of "Man in the Box" from Facelift. This is the band's debut single and is considered the song that popularized the band.

Problems playing this file? See media help.
Chart (1991) Peak
US Billboard 200[12] 42


Year Single Chart Peak
1991 "Man in the Box" US Main 18
1992 "Sea of Sorrow" 27


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[22] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Facelift". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
  2. ^ "How Alice in Chains Bridged Rock Eras With 'Facelift'". Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b Music Bank (Media notes). Alice in Chains. Columbia Records. 1996. 69580.
  4. ^ "Discography – Dirt". Aliceinchains.com. Archived from the original on 2006-07-03. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  5. ^ Prato, Greg. "Grunge is Dead:The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music." p. 261. April 2009.
  6. ^ a b Moses, Michael (September 1991). "Alice in Chains: Who is Alice and Why is She in Chains?". Rockbeat magazine.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  8. ^ "MuchMusic USA TV Interview" (last accessed November 21, 2006)
  9. ^ Darzin, Daina (January 1991). New Music Preview: Alice in Chains. Spin. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  10. ^ "Alice In Chains - Facelift CD Album". Cduniverse.com. 1990-08-20. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  11. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Alice in Chains". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 13, cited March 17, 2010
  12. ^ a b "Alice in Chains - Artist chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  13. ^ a b c Gill, Chris (September 1999). "Dirt". Guitar World.
  14. ^ "Singles". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  15. ^ "34th Grammy Awards - 1992". Rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  16. ^ "1991 MTV Video Music awards". Rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  17. ^ "Ozzy Osbourne's 10 Favorite Metal Albums". Rolling Stone. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  18. ^ Glickman, Simon. "Enotes - Alice in Chains". Enotes.com. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  19. ^ "Alice in Chains Guitarist Discusses 1990 Clash of the Titans tour, Touring With Ozzy". Blabbermouth.net. 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  20. ^ Sunday Old School: Alice in Chains Metal Underground.
  21. ^ Alice in Chains: Dirt < PopMatters Christopher, Michael. PopMatters.
  22. ^ "American album certifications – Alice in Chains – Facelift". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

Content from Wikipedia