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Jane's Addiction

 A first-derivative away from Faster Pussycat

 

Introduction
Jane's Addiciton
Nothing's Shocking
Ritual De Lo Habitual
Kettle Whistle
Strays

The Lineup Card (1986-2003)

Perry Farrell (vocals)

Dave Navarro (guitars)

Eric Avery (bass) until 1991

Stephen Perkins (drums)

Flea (bass) 1997 Also of Red Hot Chili Peppers

A pretty strong case of burning bright, burning out, and retreating into the foggy memories of days past, Jane's Addiction, in it's day, was about as influential as marijuana cigarettes. It's a shame few people remember how great they really were in the pre-Nirvana wasteland of 1990. The Addiction was the brainchild (yup...sprang straight out of his sinuses, it did) of Perry Farrell, a flaming heterosexual if there ever was one. It was his bright idea to merge Led Zeppelin/Aerosmith-style classic hard rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers-style pfunk, and the currently fashionable LA-style hair metal, all into one very listenable salad dressing. Of course, nowadays this band doesn't sound at all revolutionary...the guitarist  Dave Navarro apes Jimi Hendrix when he isn't aping Jimmy Page when he isn't aping Jimmy Buffett (not really, but I was running out of Jimmies), the rhythm section is flatly competent, and even the riffs aren't even all that fresh out of the package. What makes this band, besides being the first to resurrect early-70's psychedelic-derived mysticism (the patchouli, acid, and black light kind, not the Iron Maiden corpses-with-pointy-dental-work kind), is Perry Farrell himself. An extrovert if there ever was one, this dude was happy making his face up like Robert Smith, doing his hair like Snoop Dogg, and dressing like Bette Midler at a costume ball. He also sang like no one else I've ever heard, a true 'helium voice', if I may commandeer a favorite critical cliche. Sort of like and unholy cross between Ozzy Osbourne and Mick Jagger. And not only that, but this man had drive...he not only finagled  his way onto a major label before most of his scene-mates did (I think only Guns 'n' Roses beat them to the punch), he also resurrected the idea of the summer package tour, creating the Grandaddy Of Them All, Lollapalooza, probably still the only one that ever had much merit, if only for a few years. But all the stress and strain of being a pioneer and the only visible representative of the alternative music scene (I'd say only Perry was 'alternative' at all...the other guys could've fit in with Cinderella for God's sake) took a great big toll on the band, who threw up the towel in 1991 following the first Lollapalooza tour. They reformed in 1997 with Flea on bass for a cash-in odds-and-sods album and tour, but that was it. They still threaten to drag their junkie asses around the country from time to time, and Farrell releases bad solo albums every once in awhile, but the magic of 1990 is gone. Still, it could've been worse...this band could've been White Lion.


Jane's Addiction - Triple X 1987

Band releases live indie debut to use as negotiating tool with major record labels. Band has an amazing amount of live energy and respectable range, but songs are unfortunately lacking. That's pretty much the line on the Addiction...they were no doubt a fantastic live band, what with Dave Navarro slinging out the solos like his name was Judas Priest and Perry Farrell flouncing about like a man who talks with a lisp like he's gay but always has a bunch of hot chicks around him, but their songs seem more like groove exercises and platforms for guitar solos than actual songs. My main criticism of this group is that their songs never go anywhere...they simply rotate on their little riff axes until the band tires of it and starts another one. My gut tells me this is their 'punk' influence, LA hardcore especially being not exactly the biggest champion of variety in music history. Jane's Addiction unfortunately doesn't even have the advantage of studio gloss...and the flat live recording doesn't even translate their cracking synergy all that well, either. Perry is up in front like he needs to be, but Navarro's guitar doesn't snap as it should, and the rhythm section only barely keeps the grooves alive. It's just the way it got on tape...I'm sure there at the Roxy in 1987 it was pretty great...

Like I said, songwise the group isn't quite firm in the middle yet. 'Trip Away' is just Zeppelin's 'The Crunge' sped up so as to be nearly unrecognizable and completely undanceable, 'Whores' cops its sound from the harder sides of Are You Experienced?, especially during the lengthy soloing, except Jimi never said 'motherfucker' quite as much as Perry does. Roteness follows the fiercely unfunky funk song 'Pigs In Zen', which only takes flight during its chorus, '1%; steals its main riff wholesale from the Grateful Dead's 'Fire On The Mountain', of all places, I mean each and every note, and the alternating fast-slow formula for the benefit of the slam dancers gets a bit wearing here, but I still get a lot of charge from this song...it's the first one that sparkles for me at all, and the first one that shows signs of swinging. Having finally established themselves on the rocking side, Perry takes to indulging himself on the useless snoozer 'I Would For You', stepping up to the soapbox on issues like where the Man currently infiltrates our society (government! schools! why didn't you mention televangelism, too, Mr. Profunditiy?) and how much he just wants to forget his troubles and just fuck. Talk about a song not going anywhere...but as long as we're changing pace, why not a folky acoustic section? It's a damn good idea, I say, and the Addiction takes to emulating 'Hey Hey What Can I Do?' on 'My Time' and Lou Reed on 'Jane Says', but does both of them well. This acoustic set is my favorite part of the album, no doubt. No longer able to hide behind their elementary 'grooving' or endless preaching, they deliver a couple of solid tunes. If you can't play it on the acoustic and make it sound good, you shouldn't electrify it, as Steve Albini used to totally never say. As if to rub in their influences on us, following the album-peaking shaggy-druggy story 'Jane Says' (probably the only real keeper on the record) we get Reed's 'Sweet Jane' faithfully done, and a pretty cool half-acoustic take on 'Sympathy For The Devil'...though Perry's scizoid singing kinda drags me down, the bongos and interpretation of Keith's rippingly simple solo make me a happy little milk maid. Farrell and Navarro may have the chops to match their idols, but their inspiration needs some work...it's like they like the idea of being in a band and writing great songs more than the actual process...call it Poseur's Disease, and they'd never quite quit the habit. They would, however forge a more original voice for themselves over their next two albums, something almost none of their peers was able to accomplish.

Capn's Final Word: Somewhat rote background grooving shows snatches of greatness and a whole bunch of mediocrity. Guns 'n' Roses could've taken some subtlety lessons from JA on their cover work, though.

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Nothing's Shocking - Warner Brothers 1988

A pretty good, if not great, breakthrough studio album for the Addiction shows that, if while playing live they were a little too concerned with how they came off than how they actually plucked their instruments, on record they're a little too concerned about how they pluck their instruments than about the songs they're plucking them for. From the wanky, show-off lead guitar that seems to be cackling all over everything all the time, to all the unconvincing studio tricks that clutter everything up, they're obviously overcompensating for a lack in the writing department  by just trying to make this seem like the ass-kickingest hard rock record of 1988. And, for that year at least, it still has pretty good shot at the title bout, believe me. What, maybe this record, Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos album...Christ! What else? Nothing good was released in 1988! Everything that comes to my mind was either 1987 or 1989, but 1988 was like a total wash-out. Ah, whatever. With an album-opening slap upside the yarmaluke like the instrumental 'Up The Beach' and the pompous 'Ocean Size', we are now in the know. This album is lorded over by Navarro's lead guitar, alternately spitting out undeniable Jimmy Page finger-twiddly kamakaze runs and equally dubitable hair-metal whammy heavy petting. Perry Farrell almost comes across like a sideman...he tries to make things interesting with his yelping and various other Robert Plant-y tricks (I feel almost as if you were to plug Robert Plant into a fuzz pedal, it would come out sounding like Perry Farrell...now if that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is. Shit, this guy I work with hates everything Farrell is even indirectly associated with...just goes to show what a little anti-sissy discrimination will do to you...) The main and fatal problem with the album is their lack of variation within a tune. Once the song starts, that's the way it's-a-gonna-go for the next 5 minutes, and if you don't like it, well, youse better just cash in your ticket now and go buy Wire's Pink Flag, an album that has songs with 4 or 5 different riffs in them...and each song is one minute long. Talk about your value for money...Nothing's Shocking is like a 35-dollar ticket to see the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jane's Addiction attempts to mix up their sound some on Nothing's Shocking, but what I hear is that they're not really able to make their rockers take off (other than maybe the first two and 'Mountain Song'), so how the hell are they supposed to do any better with pseudo-dub (the title track...which later ends up sounding like Ratt after the 'rocking' starts) cocktail jazz, or funk ('Standing In The Shower Thinking', which I think was written as a love song to Anthony Kiedis). The main problem is that Dave Navarro plays almost equally teeth-gritting solos no matter what the style of the music...he simply knows no other way to do it other than full on. It's as if he's always out there waving his dick around, licking his chops and thrusting his hips, when a little peck on the cheek might be the perfect fit for the situation. I guess that's part of the Jane's Addiction thang...it's all sorta profane, you see...the lyrics, the look, the album covers...and the guitar solos. Over the top, right? I wish we had more pretty airheaded stuff like 'Summertime Rolls' to break up the constant riffage...luckily they don't try to go to the ballad cookie jar too many times, because this song just ain't too hot on its own terms (is there a melody here?) but as a sort of unfunny comedic relief, it's aces. And the following full-bore Iron Maiden 'Mountain Song' gets full benefit by the contrast...a super stoopid metal song punctuated by Perry saying 'Com-ing down da moun-tannnn!!' like he's barking at the moon on the crazee train, boyeee. But yet, a metal song that gets pulled off. Because the riff is simple, the chorus part is perfectly stress-relieving, and the noise break is just 'alt-y' enough to count as something a little more respectable than a simple British Metal ripoff.

The ending is really the place where the shit sticks to the shoes, though. First off, we get versions of 'Jane Says' and 'Pigs In Zen' (which sucked the first time) that are pale-faced gringo cracker peckerwoods next to their more robust and honey-toned versions on Jane's Addiction. 'Jane Says' gains some nice steel drums, but without the live, sitting-round-the-fire vibe from the other version, it's not quite so easy to ignore the fact that the same weak riff is just ground into the dust over the course of the tune, and four Perrys do not make for better Perrys...they totally missed the lesson about Less being More, I guess. There's also another funk song, even worse than the first, called 'Idiots Rule'....and thus I end the review. Sometimes, these endings just write themselves.

Capn's Final Word:  Just because you look cool and your guitarist can rip up the ol' inflatable woman on his Gibson don't mean you've got an album's full of good graces for the world.

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thatcoolbrotha     Your Rating:B-
Any Short Comments?: This album is okay if nothing spectacular. The real matter I want to address is your thoughts on 1988. Lots of great albums came out in 88'! Well only three come to mind. Pixies Surfer Rosa, My Bloody Valentine Isn't Anything and that Public Enemy one with long name, "millions" or something. I'm sure there are others but those are the
only two I can think of right now. So if you go and put down the year 88 again, I'm gonna have to put my foot down and send some more angry e-mails okay? Well that wasn't angry at all...I'll just end this with some exclamation points...!!!!!

(Capn's Note...Yeah, yeah, I'll give you those. I almost mentioned It Takes A Nation... but I couldn't decide whether that came out in '87 or '88. I totally forgot the Pixies and MBV albums. What, didn't Sting release an album in 1988 or something? Never mind...I'll shut up now...)
 

jimbo     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: it's a perfect album.  was then, is now.  timeless.

it's a perfect band.  was then, is now.  saw them in KC last week and they kicked the ass of every man, woman and child in the joint.

anyone who thinks this is a has-been band hasn't seen them since late 80's early 90's.
 

Buddha     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: You exaggerate their unoriginality and underestimate their rythm section. This gives the inferior Appetite For Destruction a good hiding, being better musically, creatively and having more diversity. It's just a more longevity record than the far more hyped Appetite.

The best hard rock album of the 80's, if only more 'critics' would ignore record sales and image and rate bands purely on quality. Sorry to say, but this makes Appetite sound like a soft, one-dimensional, poodle-rock record. Your review was dissappointing. However, let people buy both records and decide for themselves.

 


Ritual De Lo Habitual - Warner Brothers 1990


The cover you see above is actually the banned version, depicting what looks like a game of hearts missing one player, a five-legged race, or Angelina Jolie's last Thanksgiving at home with the family, take your pick. Anyway, the other cover (the one that I've actually got, it always seems to be cheaper) is just plain white with the first amendment printed on it, no doubt as some sort of profound Farellian gesture of frustration at the rejection of his (frankly pretty fucking ugly) obscene cover art. What didn't get complaints was the content of the album...so many of the kinks of Nothing's Shocking get worked out that what we're left with is....gasp!...a pretty great 90's rock album! At least for the first half! And that's about 2/3rds of an album better than most records released in 1991! And, good for them, they didn't abandon their signature style one iota...they just got rid of the silly ridiculous 'diversity' that dragged down Shocking (except the curry-flavored 'Of Course', which is easily ignored lost among all the slowness on side B) and just filled the album with really really good rockers. Instead of relying on solos and studio trickery to carry a song over, they rely on their true strength, their rhythm section. Heretofore (henceforth? hitherto? such much?) they've never really impressed me too much, they just seemed competent at that's about all. But on Ritual their fluid tempo changes and relentless application of foot to butt are impossible to ignore. Listen to how 'Ain't No Right' alternates between near-thrash headbanging and clear-blue-sky freefall. Mix two parts fast 'n' heavy 'n' tense and one part broke-wide-open release and you've just created the formula for a sure-fire heavy rocker. People need time to build up the pressure before letting it all pop....it's sort of like sex in a way. Except you aren't touching your privates. Unless you're enjoying the album a whole lot. And then you'd probably do well to bump up the grade to a full A+. Sickie.

Anyway, Ritual De Lo Habitual is just one kick-ass, intelligent, catchy Addiciton-style rocker after another, at least for the first half or so, but there's songs that require mention even then. The opening 'Stop' is the right up there with the best 'here we go!' songs, alongside maybe 'Song 2' by Blur and Husker Du's 'New Day Rising'. 'Obvious' has a great wide-screen epic feel to it and even some John Cale-esque piano pounding for spice sake, and 'Been Caught Stealing' is the best song Jane's Addiction ever did....undeniably danceable bassline, an extremely buoyant guitar line (that doesn't rely on distortion for once), funny lyrics about shoplifting, and some of the most devilishly enjoyable 'da-da-da-da's I've ever heard.

It's a shame the pace can't be kept up, but the ideas run out and the tempos begin to plod with 'Three Days', which sounds like a rewrite of 'Up The Beach' from NS. And while 'Then She Did' has a near Police Ghost In The Machine feel, it fails to move from point A to point B, or even wiggle its little tight bootie around on point A very much, and the whole reason for all those 'dramatic' strings and cymbal crashes is lost on me. In fact, the whole second half (even if it's part of the second half, I'm counting 'Been Caught Stealing' as a spiritual member of Side A) drags its ass around with little for the memory, little for the dancin' shoes, little for the fast-twitch neck muscles, and even less for the brain. I guess they wanted to get all their self-indulgences out at once, which I guess was kind of them. I always wondered why I could never remember what any of the songs that followed 'Been Caught Stealing' sounded like.

Capn's Final Word: Oh, if they'd only wanted to just rock 'n' roll a bit more....that first side has me forgetting about all those Led Zeppelin comparisons....

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Killibinizik     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: While I agree with your oppinion of the A-sides being near flawless on the album, I have recently been listening to the B-sides (or "long songs" as I call them) and Three Days, and Then she said/did (i dont remember which it was) are a lot more decent than you credit them.  However the last two sound like the whole band was jacked on china white when they were recording them.  In short I just think this album really deserves an A but i'm sure you'd probably care less ;).

 


Kettle Whistle - Warner Brothers 1997

Pretty poor cash-in collection of alternate studio takes (wildly worthless), live versions of songs you may already have live versions of, and some really bad previously unreleased outtakes. Pretty unreasonably wasteful of your money, I think, to give you yet another version of 'Jane Says'...I know it was their theme song and all, but one copy of this 'Sweet Jane' ripoff is all I need. I used to have some nice feelings about the song, now I'm just sick to tears of it. I suppose the opener 'Kettle Whistle' is fair, but definitely sub 'Up The Beach' as a pretentious, long rocker. 'My Cat's Name Is Maceo' is simply a reason to sell this album back and buy some much better Journey albums I bet you don't have. Yup...recommending Journey instead of some pale live versions of Jane's Addiction hits. I guess this comp really isn't very good at all...

Capn's Final Word:  Flea appears on bass somewhere on here, but I never figured out where he was playing because all the songs that I don't know SUCK ASS. Is that clear enough for you?

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Strays - Warner Brothers 2003

After over a decade apart, with Navarro slumming it on the Red Hot Chili Peppers worst album since, ummm....since they used to suck ass in the mid-80's, and Perry with the spotty Porno for Pyros 'band' that ended up being Perry with whoever he wanted to invite along, the Addiction are able to come back into a music scene just as bankrupt and desolate as when they first arrived and still release an album that not only sounds just like classic Jane's, but still beats the writhing, wriggling pooplog out of 90% of the records around it. Probably the best thing I can say is that, if anything, the band sounds better than they ever did back in the 80's - Navarro's guitar is more subtle and Hendrix-oid, and Perry is still able to climb the octave stairs to the top of the skyscraper in addition to a cool new early 80's-Bono thing that I hear traces of on the title track ('The rooooaaaddd it fayyyyydeeeesss away! The rooooaaaaddddd it's getting thinner!!''). The rhythm section (with new bassist Chris Chaney, who takes over for Flea and Eric Avery, who still has some major beef with Perry about something or other. Probably involving either A) drugs or b) eye makeup or c) the transport of the mannequins on the cover of Nothing's Shocking across state lines for immoral purposes) still kicks it quick-style, and though there isn't at all the same level of rhythmic experimentation as Ritual had, Strays still kicks it's quick feet mighty hard. I dunno, perhaps Jane's is pretty unremarkable when you get right down to it (you know, Led Zeppelin copyists and all that), but there's a very reliable dose of crack-rush in this album....one listen to 'Just Because' and I'm willing to call it the single of the year if 'Seven Nation Army' weren't so fucking great. 

The band still has the ability to be more lugubrious than is otherwise healthy, like on the intro to 'Price I Pay', which recalls 'Jane Says', which recalls, erm, EVERY FUCKING ALBUM THE BAND EVER MADE BECAUSE IT WAS ON EVERY LAST FUCKING ONE OF THEM. But 'Price' later turns into a good ol' fashioned thrash workout...see, the slow part was just for 'dynamics', just like the acoustic guitar solos on the old Black Sabbath records. I'm not too cynical not to fall for that kind of stuff! Whee!

The band finds several ways of making their rockers sound different from each other, which is a nice change for a band that tended to set everything on 'groove with riff' back in the day. 'SuperHero' keeps the swing going in a sexy groove that out Chilis the Peppers (nice trick for Navarro) and 'Suffer Some' and 'Hypersonic' are fast enough to make me forget my troubles. Plus, Navarro's always able to keep the little fills and twiddles going underneath the main riff, a rare thing among a lot of 'alternative' guys, who tend to think shitloads of distortion is enough. Nah, Dave might be derivative stylistically, but he's got the lead guitar role down pat...he's able to play all that rhythm and lead stuff at more or less the same time, filling the spaces that make a lot less talented bands sound more ragged than a pair of Al Bundy's tighty-whities.

This album in general is so reliably, head-smashingly rocky that I think I like it even more than I feel I should. I mean, shit, if this album were by frigging Page and Plant I'd be calling it the second coming. And if it were by Linda Lovelace I'd call it the second cumming. And if it were by Jesus, well, I might have to become a Christian. You get the idea. Jane's Addiction may be overrated (by SPIN fer fucking example! Jesus! One female writer has a decent orgasm while coked up and fucking some Latino guy to 'Mountain Song' in 1991 then we have to hear about how 'Jane's Addiction Changed Everyone's Life In the Late 80's, which I think is complete bullshit), but for every over-rate, there's some grain of truth, and this band shows they're not the Godfathers of Alternative just because some bitch was looking for a good headline.

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Capn's Final Word:  As if they were never gone. And they sobered up. And got better.


 

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