The Alice In Chains Icon That Joe Elliott Called ‘Paper Tiger’

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The grunge genre emerged as a subculture in the mid-’80s as a part of alternative rock, particularly in Seattle. It combined the elements of punk rock and heavy metal without using punk form and speed. The genre’s style was characterized by distorted electric guitar sounds and the exploration of psychological trauma and social alienation in its lyrics. Bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam which adopted grunge, brought innovation to the music world in the early ’90s.

Alice In Chains came to the fore in the grunge scene with the 1992 ‘Dirt’ album. It was credited for contributing to the popularization of the genre and became the band’s most-selling record to date. Besides its sound, the record was a foundation stone of grunge, with the lyrics talking about depression and pain. Layne Staley vocalized these lines with his distinctive singing voice and impressed many people. However, according to the glam metal band Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Staley’s effect on the music scene was temporary and not substantial.

Joe Elliott On The Disillusionment Created By Grunge Heroes

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Grunge peaked in the early ’90s with the bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice In Chains. These bands’ vocalists reached a broad audience with their distinctive voices reflecting the pain in each lyric. However, grunge started to decline in the late ’90s when many bands began to disappear. Additionally, Kurt Cobain’s sudden passing was another turning point that affected the fortune of grunge. On the other hand, Alice In Chains Layne Staley was estranged from the band, and they went on a hiatus during the same period.

Joe Elliot, who made the pop-metal genre popular with his band Def Leppard, agreed that grunge was dead during a 2003 interview with Ed Condran. He stated that it was because Kurt Cobain had already passed away and Layne Staley no longer had a say in grunge and later also passed away. On the other hand, not many people listened to Eddie Vedder anyway. Elliott noted that none of these grunge acts managed to survive because they were all temporary and not that strong, like ‘paper tigers.’

Joe Elliot said the following when asked why grunge was dead while pop metal was still alive:

“By 1998, it was all apparent. Kurt Cobain was dead. Layne Staley was in no position to say anything, and now he was dead. Nobody was listening to Eddie Vedder. People were discovering that their heroes were paper tigers. They either died or didn’t have the stamina to last.”

Layne Staley predicted grunge’s future in an interview dated back to 1993. He stated that the genre would not stay in Seattle permanently, and bands from other places would emerge. Grunge started to fade away in the music scene; however, it shape-shifted and reappeared under the name of post-grunge in the following years. Later on, the genre passed through periods where several bands revived it.