Why “Angry Chair” Is A Sequel To Another Alice In Chains Classic Revealed

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A tightly wound Layne Staley- in mind and in melody, syncopated to a tightly wound Jerry Cantrell riff, winds around us like a rope tying us tighter to the angry chair we’re trapped in. “Angry Chair,” released 25 years ago today as a single, hasn’t loosened its ropes on us all these years later, and we’re still sizzling in its electrocution.

Layne Staley wrote words and music to one of Alice In Chains’ finest songs released on Dirt, and as a single December 6th, 1992. Over a loose and limber rhythm, Cantrell coils riffs like a cobra sinking its teeth into Staley’s suffocation, in a dark room with “candles red” in the “corporate prison” where they stay: “shadows dancing everywhere, burning on the angry chair”.

Alice In Chains in the burning “Angry Chair”

So many of AIC’s songs have gripped us over the years, and “Angry Chair” goes back to the theme of the band’s first hit – it feels like a sequel to “Man in the Box”, with another prisoner gripping his last grasp of reality. Layne admits to his mistake – “little boy made a mistake/pink cloud now has turned to gray”, and now he’s looking towards religion as his last chance, “get on your knees and pray boy,” but it’s probably already too late when he sings lines of hopelessness, like: “lost my mind but I don’t mind” and “so little hope that I died.”

Though it feels extremely personal, Staley still recognizes that he’s not the only one feeling pain as he sings: “corporate prison we stay, I’m a dull boy work all day, so I’m strung out anyway.” Referencing the music business and the band around him, he keeps it from being about one man against the world, but bringing it down to earth by representing his band’s feeling of the music industry.

Alice in Chains: electrocution style- killing us with “Angry Chair” live in 1992

Buried as the penultimate track on Dirt, it teamed with the finale “Would?” to form perhaps the greatest final two tracks on any rock album and secured Alice In Chains’ place in some of rock’s greatest music from the dark shadows of despair.

Alice In Chains featuring Scott Weiland sitting in the “Angry Chair”

  • Eddie Yarler

    I wouldn’t say the two songs are connected. Man in the Box was about censorship. Angry Chair is just in line with the darker material on Dirt (Hate to Feel, Dirt, Sickman). One thing Jerry and Layne did do though was address similar topics with different lyrics. The best examples are Nutshell/Don’t Follow and Frogs/Over Now.

  • dakotablue

    I always thought Angry Chair was ultimately about the “mistake” Layne made by trying heroin and then getting strung out, although like any good poet he makes it more universal with the child imagery, etc.