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Alice in Chains 

Live (Columbia)

Alice in Chains emerged from Seattle in the late '80s and has since melded its own brand of screeching hard rock into a blend of mournful dirges and grinding alternative riffs. The group's second live disc, aptly named Live, represents a departure from the soulful, melancholy ballads found on its MTV Unplugged album. Instead, the group emphasizes its grittier stage performances. But where the MTV concert articulated poignancy buried in many of the band's songs, Live falters, revealing the limits of what was once called the Seattle sound.

Songs such as "Would?", "Them Bones," and "Angry Chair" don't depart from their studio renditions; the howls of frontman Layne Staley and the expressive guitar work of Jerry Cantrell come off as rote and uninspired. Great live bands always breathe new life into their studio recordings when they take to the road, but Live refuses to explore new terrain in songs such as "Man in the Box," "Rooster," and "Love, Hate, Love." We're also subjected to simple, rougher versions of the band's set, with no surprises. Not even "Dirt," subtitled "Drunk and Disorderly Version," offers anything original. The song is so named because Staley is obviously inebriated, announcing "Hello Osaka" before realizing he's actually in Nagoya, Japan. For that matter, many of the songs might well be grafted with the same subtitle. In "Queen of the Rodeo," a B-side off the group's Music Box set, Staley screams to a crowd in Dallas, "So, cowboy, if you're looking for loving, I ain't no queer -- go fuck a steer!", and you realize what a moron he really is. The disc never challenges listeners with anything fresh and inventive -- it only captures the band's penchant for excess, which is nothing new either.

More by Keith Gribbins

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