Brad Nowell was a great songwriter. And that was far before he started dabbling in heroin.
Essentially, it’s my conceit that Brad, who felt that his music wasn’t deep enough without the hard drugs, actually made his music worse by doing the drugs.
The guy was, for lack of a better word, prolific. From 40 ounces to freedom and Robbin the Hood, this guy was constantly in the mix, writing songs, taking concepts and extending them. Songs were ever evolving before (and after) being put on wax. Going through the archives, you can see that this was a guy who was moving forward.
Then comes the S/T album. How does it sounds compared to forty ounces? Flat, dull, with a commercial sheen that glosses over the soullessness of most compositions. It sounds like songs that didn’t get the loving attention that is required to create a complete, innovative, nuanced song.
The moral of the story is, don’t do drugs. Though Layne Staley was, indeed, the motherfucking truth, he also (reportedly) closed the door on Jerry Cantrell when Cantrell asked him to choose AIC or heroin. I mean, come on, what the fuck would you chose?
You don’t require drugs to write a good song. More like, the drugs are the rider to the soul with the insight, not the cause of the insight.