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POP MUSIC

Spring Album Roundup

** JERRY CANTRELL "Boggy Depot" Columbia

April 05, 1998|Sara Scribner

Cantrell is the guitarist of Seattle's Alice in Chains, and his dark-and-dirty take on the world echoes some of the turmoil of that drug-plagued grunge-metal group. No doubt affected by Chains' forays into the world of "Unplugged," Cantrell presents a lighter shade of pitch-black in the more textured, acoustic feel of his solo debut. The unthinking, unblinking, kick-ass past is pretty much gone for good.

Bummer.

Though he's aided by a slew of rock pals from Fishbone, Pantera, Primus and Alice, Cantrell fails to provide the substance and soul that his softer side demands. The psychedelia seems soggy, the acoustic sounds familiar, and the only time the music feels honest is when it sounds exactly like Alice in Chains.

"Boggy Depot" does kick off nice and angsty with "Dickeye" and "Cut You In," but quickly loses its focus and stimulating hard edge as Cantrell turns inward. He flips the early songs' cocky bravado onto a dissecting table for failed relationships. More adept songwriters have reached the sublime at such times, but Cantrell just slinks off into the dark corners of self-pity and gives up. If you ever doubted that it generally takes more true, open-hearted guts to strum than howl, here's the proof. In the end, Jerry Cantrell would probably be better off banging his head.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

Hear the Music

* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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