Alice in Chains

Would?

Song Review by

First appearing on the groundbreaking Singles soundtrack in 1992, then tacked on as a coda to the harrowing concept album Dirt, "Would?" became one of Alice in Chains' most popular songs, perhaps second only to rock-radio staple "Rooster." A touch more melancholy than many of the group's best-known rockers, "Would?" was no less anguished, and its lyrics hinted -- in roundabout fashion -- at the drug addiction which helped produce the feeling of tortured despair that dominated the band's music. But aside from references to "flying" and a "drifting body," as well as the chorus line "Into the flood again/Same old trip it was back then," the lyrics mostly center around failure ("Know me, broken by my master") and regret, plus pleas for understanding ("So I made a big mistake/Try to see it once my way") for which the singer doesn't seem to hold out much hope, given the despairing tone of the song. Cantrell's liquid solo lines float behind a simple, ringing riff, while the rhythm section grinds ominously underneath. The guitar shifts into full throttle on the chorus, adding an explosive frustration that complements the melancholy minor-key melody; even if the lyrics don't always make literal sense, the music unfailingly puts the desired feeling across. The structure of "Would?" is unorthodox -- after alternating between verse and chorus, the song charges into a completely new coda section never hinted at anywhere else. As the coda begins, it seems to resolve the minor-key melody of the chorus into the brighter, more anthemic major key, but immediately throws in a resoundingly dissonant chord change, leading the listener's ear into totally unexpected territory. What had at first sounded like a complete release of the tension built up during the previous parts of the song has now become something queasy, haunting, and even more evocative, flirting with catharsis but never quite achieving it. The more ambiguous lyrics of the first part have given way here to utter desolation and loneliness ("Am I wrong?/Have I run too far to get home?/Have I gone/And left you here alone?"), and Cantrell's supporting rhythm guitar work is busy and almost chaotic. As the song ends, Staley shouts the cryptic challenge, "If I would, could you?" over blasts of guitar dissonance. The final effect of the song is actually more menacing than the sum of its part, perhaps because the indirect allusions of the lyrics make the gloomy angst of the song seem too intense to articulate explicitly. Whatever the case, "Would?" is one of the band's most fully realized individual moments.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Singles [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1992
Various Artists
Epic 3:27
Dirt 1992 Columbia 3:27
Nothing Safe 1999 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 3:28
Rock: Train Kept a Rollin' 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:28
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:28
Music Bank 1999 Columbia 3:27
Bank Heist 1999 Columbia 3:28
Music Bank: The Videos 1999 Sony Music Distribution
Greatest Hits 2001 Columbia 3:28
Nothing Safe/Music Bank 2003 Smv 3:28
The Essential Alice in Chains 2004 Legacy / Columbia 3:28
Dirt/MTV Unplugged 2006 Epic / Sony BMG 5:38
20 Years of Rage 2007
Various Artists
ABC Music 3:28
What's Up?
Various Artists
Magnum