Lets stay with the chilled-out mood.
A lot of people thought of Alice in Chains as the metallic Johnny-One-Notes of the 90’s Seattle scene, incapable of moving beyond their core riff-centric sound. It’s true that when they cranked up the amps, they could make with the bludgeon tunes as good as anybody playing at the time. For an act that got fairly regular airplay on commercial radio, AIC was adept at an alienating heaviness.
But with the release of the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs, the band showed that they could pull off acoustic music just as well as angry metal. The vocal harmonies between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell that made their rocked-out songs so interesting took on a whole new light when pared with gentler fare. Staley’s mournful wail was a perfect match for Cantrell’s mellow rasp. In an acoustic rock context, their otherworldly vocals often led to amazing material.
“Don’t Follow” comes from Jar of Flies, which would go to see two songs hit big on the alt-rock singles chart. “No Excuses” and ‘I Stay Away” showcased the bands’ ability to craft sweeping epics in a three to four minute format. “Don’t Follow”, by contrast, was a somber warning to forgo a dangerous path.
At this point in the band’s run, Layne Staley had been fighting a losing battle with heroin for several years. His lyrics for Flies briefly touched on the ecstatic highs of the drug, but were more often focused on the pain and remorse he felt because of his addiction. Staley knew he was a self-absorbed junkie, he hated himself for it, but even with that knowledge he couldn’t do anything about it. Those brutally honest and deeply conflicted themes permeated the album, turning what could’ve been just a sideways time-killing detour in AIC’s career into a sorrowful brooding masterpiece.