With more of an Alice in Chains vibe than Boggy Depot, you kind of think Cantrell may have been writing for the band, however that never materialized. But he played two of the songs, “Died” and “Get Born Again” to Staley, who helped finish them. “Get Born Again” appeared on the Nothing’s Safe: Best of the Box album, while “Died” showed up on the Music Bank collection in 1999. It was the last song Staley recorded with the band.
Lyrically, Cantrell opens up about his relationship with Staley, especially on songs like “Bargain Basement Howard Hughes”, which appears to be nod towards Staley’s reclusiveness and the relationship the two had, with Cantrell confessing he broke Staley’s trust in him and stole his dignity when he sings “Dignity I’d steal, now I know how it feel”. It’s that interpersonal turmoil that really comes through on this song.
You Do Your Thing, I’ll Live My Life
Another is “Locked On” with its pretty clear lyrics like “Fallen rock star pushing needle. You don’t know? Well that’s alright. You do your thing, I’ll live my life.”
And to get a sense of Cantrell’s mindset in late 1998, there’s “Psychotic Break”, which was sort of prophetic (“Thinking ’bout my dead friends whose voices ring on”) after Staley died months before the record’s release. Another is “Solitude”, where Cantrell discusses the self-imposed isolation he put himself in and how he had to “take the time to pull the weeds choking flowers in your (his) life”.
Then there’s the track “Spiderbite” (one of the best on the record), which depicts how Cantrell got hooked on cocaine after doing it for the first time at 19 years old in Houston. While the songs “Dying Inside” and “Pro False Idol” take a cynical look at what being a rock star is all about.
Through every dark, visceral track, Cantrell leaves something from his psyche and it certainly makes for great listening and a phenomenal album.
If you’re an Alice in Chains fan and haven’t listened to Degradation Trip, it’s a must.
Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.