DEGRADATION TRIP is a thrill ride from start to finish. Easily being one of the best releases of 2002, Jerry Cantrell’s second solo album soars from consistent songwriting, and absolutely catchy songs and roaring rockers. Also, DEGRADATION TRIP proves to be Cantrell’s most haunting and heartfelt collection since DIRT, which spilled lots of emotion from both Cantrell and Layne Staley, the latter which Cantrell dedicated TRIP to. “Anger Rising” is easily one of my favorite songs on the album, with absolutely great musicianship and skill, and the beautiful and haunting “Angel Eyes” nearly jerks tears from your eyes. All throughout DEGRADATION TRIP, Jerry Cantrell explores some darker sides of humanity with crack addicton (“Mother’s Spinning In Her Grave”), former loves (“She Was My Girl”), and deep personal introspection (“Locked On”). I am not disappointed by the results of this album, as it contains great music, deeply reflective lyrics, and tight songwriting. DEGRADATION TRIP is easily one of the best releases of this year, and I for one appreciate the fact that even though Layne took the future of AIC to the grave with him, Cantrell carries on the soul of that band all his own, and DEGRADATION TRIP is proof that Cantrell is one of the best musicians to blossom. A must buy for any AIC or Cantrell fan!
A tour de force of epic proportions, the 14-song, 72-minute outing from former Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell is a brutal emotional exorcism, the brooding and insinuating music perfectly suited to the pained and pointed lyrics. In Alice in Chains, Cantrell was responsible for such hits as the intensely personal ”Rooster,” and on this, his sophomore solo outing, Cantrell continues in that vein, painting unflinching and often brutal personal portraits on the aptly titled Degradation Trip. Just as Appetite for Destruction captured a debauched moment in time for Guns N’ Roses, Degradation Trip encapsulates the often-pained soul and experiences of Jerry Cantrell. The singer-guitarist seems self-referential and tongue-in-cheek on songs, such as ”Bargain Basement Howard Hughes,” while ”Mother’s Spinning in Her Grave (Glass Dick Jones)” seems to address crack addiction. In ”Psychotic Break,” Cantrell sings ”chalking up my dead friends / and loved ones long gone,” an ode written even before bandmate Layne Staley’s passing. With Ozzy Osbourne’s rhythm section supporting him musically, the forceful, soaring, energetic ”Anger Rising” is haunting, as Cantrell sings ”by the way father, could you beat me some more.” The lovely, instantly memorable ”Angel Eyes” sounds radio-ready, while the album closer, the spare, mournful, countrified ”Gone,” is a tearjerker. Degradation Trip is a stunning, haunting journey, and when Cantrell sings ”feel like a psychotic break comin’ on,” you can’t help but believe him–and yearn for his redemption. –Katherine Turman
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Last summer I saw Jerry on tour with MIRV and Swarm, and he played two new songs before playing a few from Boggey Depot then playing a full Alice set. I don’t remember exactly which two songs they were, …I couldn’t wait for the album to come out. Well, now that it has, it has proved to be well worth the long wait. The immediate stand out songs were Psychotic Break, Angel Eyes, Spiderbite, and the single, Anger Rising. With former Faith No More (another one of the best bands ever) and current Ozzy drummer Mike Bordin and Ozzy bassist Robert Trujillo, the rythym section is phenominal. To top everythign off, the album is dedicated to Layne Staley, which I found to be very touching. If you’ve ever been a fan of AIC or Jerry Cantrell, go get this album, you’ll be more than satisfied at this great album.
In a year where the rock charts are taken over by rap-metal and emo-punk, it seems like seeing a revolution of REAL rock is hopeless. But with this cd, you just might think there IS hope that real rock will come back. This cd sounds like it came out in 1992 rather than 2002. Shame Jerry had to make this during the time that Layne Staley died- at least he dedicated the album to him. I also had the excellent opportunity to see Jerry Cantrell live this past June, when he was on the Jim Beam Road to the Rackhouse Tour with Nickelback and Epidemic. He is AMAZING live! My favorites on this cd are “Anger Rising”, “Pyschotic Break”, “Bargain Basement Howard Hughes”, and “Hellbound”, but I can easily listen to the whole cd without skipping a track So help to keep grunge alive and buy this cd! and also check out Cantrell’s debut “Boggy Depot”- just as good as this one.Alice in Chains are one of my ALL TIME favorite bands, probably,,, 3rd favorite after Dream Theater and Iron Maiden, and I was dissapointed to hear that Staley died, but at least their great guitarist and founder keeps their sound alive- ROCK ON JERRY, SHOW JIMMY EAT WORLD HOW ROCK IS DONE!!!!!!!
Its about time Jerry stepped up and showed all of these Alice in Chains Rip-Off bands (i.e. Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Godsmack, etc.) how it supposed to be done. Degradation Trip is a 70+ minute long heavy, emotional gem that us die hard AIC fans have been waiting for. Not to knock Cantrell’s solo debut “Boggy Depot”, which was a great album, but it was a slight departure from the dark and heavy sludge that epitomized AIC. Jerry was always the main creative force behind Alice, and he undoubtedly proves it here. There isn’t a single song on this album that disappoints. Jerry mixes his trademark strange and heavy riffs perfectly with layers of minor key vocal harmonies that can fool you into thinking that good ol’ Layne is alive and well. The lyrics are personal and emotional, and deal a great deal with Staley’s problems, which just puts the icing on the cake as we are given a hint as to what it was like to be watching Layne’s decline from close range. There is only one thing missing on this album that holds it back from being a masterpiece, and that is Sean Kinney’s drumming. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mike Bordin does an excellent job filling in, but Kinney has a destinct style that was as much of the AIC sound as Jerry’s guitar crunch and Layne’s nasaly wail. Thats my only complaint though, and believe me, its a small one. Any fan of AIC, or heavy music in general, will love this album. And fans of the previously mentioned “AIC Copy” bands should pick this album up and hear what Grunge should sound like. P.S. Shame on Columbia records for giving up on Jerry. They are most certainly kicking themselves right now. RIP Layne.
Fans of Alice in Chains came to realize this year that with the death of Layne Staley, there would be no reunion in the future. So with that legacy casting a shadow Jerry Cantrell, Staley’s bandmate and songwriting partner, finally released his anticipated second solo album. While Staley was the voice of AIC and its frontman, fans won’t soon forget that Cantrell was the heart of the music itself. His harmony vocals and guitar rifts defined Alice in Chains’ sound, and this effort goes to show that although Staley will be missed, rock music hasn’t died just yet.
I hate to compare this album to his former band, as that really isn’t fair. There really is no substitute for AIC, and Cantrell isn’t trying to duplicate his success. Rather, he’s a hard-working gifted songwriter/musician and this effort should be judged solely on its own. I can honestly say that although it is impossible to listen to this album without comparing it to the old band, it stands out on its own as a very good record.
Cantrell’s first solo work, Boggy Depot, had its ups and downs. It was a good listen, but other than a few songs (such as “My Song”), it wasn’t particularly inspiring. With Degradation Trip, Cantrell realizes his potential. Now he’s a legitimate solo artist, not a member of a successful band branching out to do his own thing. He signed up with Roadrunner records, borrowed Mike Bordin (drums) and Robert Trujilo (bass) from Ozzy Osbourne’s lineup, and is here to make a statement all his own.
The album starts out with “Psychotic Break”, which is aptly named. It carries a pulse, droning along as it teases the listener, promising to break out into something much bigger. As the album progresses, this does happen. “Bargain Basement Howard Hughes” is evidence of this, and then we’re really in for a stretch of listening pleasure as Cantrell moves into “Anger Rising”, and the best song on the CD, “Angel Eyes”. These songs could both be hits with the right marketing, so we’ll see what happens. “Angel Eyes”, in fact, should be placed in the top ten songs that Cantrell has ever penned, putting it right up there with “Rooster”, “Would?”, “Got Me Wrong”, “Heaven Beside You”, “Killer is Me”, and “No Excuses”. Yes, those are some of the best songs that Alice In Chains put out over the years, but that’s how good this tune is. You just have to hear it.
Cantrell slows things down a little with “Solitutude”, but loses nothing. At this pace, you can see that he’s a songwriter first, and that music is truly his passion. Again, hating to compare it to AIC, but I have to look back on the Jar of Flies album when I listen to this one. Like his old band, Cantrell pens a relaxing melody just as well as a hard rock jamming tune.
Other highlights on this album include “She Was My Girl,” another song that can’t be overlooked with its catchy pace, and could be another hit. Not only that, good luck getting it out of your head once you’ve given it a good listen. Check out “Hellbound,” and “Spiderbite,” where Cantrell shows he’s got the heavy thing down pat too. Here’s where you’ll recognize Ozzy’s boys just itching to break loose. Cantrell never drops the leash completely, however. He keeps us held tightly to what he’s trying to do here. And that’s just fine, as this isn’t Ozzy, but rather a blend of musicianship, blues, rock and roll, and grunge. The taste of metal mixed in doesn’t overpower or take away from this formula. “Mother’s Spinning in Her Grave” has a beat underlying it that will make you tap the steering wheel as you drive. “Give it a Name” is another catchy one, reminding me more of a good Pearl Jam tune than anything else. If you can imagine Pearl Jam with AIC-like harmony vocals.
“Castaway” isn’t one to be overlooked, either. Nor is “Chemical Tribe,” another heavy one that almost, but never quite, lets loose. This one will make you think too, as he tackles the concept of drugs taking over our generation. Perhaps that was written with Layne Staley, who the album is dedicated to, in mind. “Locked On” is poignant: “locked on, what’s the deal? faded rock star, pushing needle…you don’t know, well that’s alright. You do your thing, I’ll do mine”…..
The album finishes off with “Gone”, again bringing Staley to mind. This is the album’s slowest song, and brings us all down from the “Trip” we’ve been riding since “Psychotic Break”. This is one of those songs that just mellows out the listener, if it doesn’t make ‘em think outright. And one will need several minutes after it is over before putting on some other music. That would just spoil the mood.
Degradation Trip is one of those albums that sounds good the first time thru, but gets even better with each playing. Yes, it will remind you at times of Alice in Chains; there’s simply no avoiding that. But if you can take a few moments to toss out comparisons to his old band, Cantrell will entertain you completely on his own. And this isn’t a bad thing. This album is one of the best releases that this reviewer has heard in years. That’s with the rise of such bands as Staind, Creed, Godsmack, and Nickelback, and isn’t to put any of those down. This album is simply that good.
A final thought, from “Locked On”:
“Every song I wrote meant what I said at the time
Yeah I spent some time looking death right in the eye
Every song I wrote I captured a fragment of time
Dying a little makes you appreciate life”