Friday, 7 March 2008



In the prime era of the alternative nation there was little more exhilarating than hearing the voice of Perry Farrell in full flight.  The aural assertion and sonic soar would often be a breathtaking experience as the music of Jane’s Addiction would rise to heady heights in astounding fashion.  This was an expansive sound seen and heard nowhere else (past or present).  In times before auto-tune his voice was a major instrument, a true weapon of incredible awe.  Then no sooner would the music peak, it would come crashing down unleashing strands resembling some shocking dispatch of trepidation to lurch the listener to an else induced dark state.

Jane’s Addiction was always a dark proposition.  In order for music to fly like this, there had to be narcotics and mind expansion involved.  And looking at the band, listening to their words, they weren’t necessarily concealing their methods.  With their indulgence came a strong creativity and decadence.

In the pairing of Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro here was a modern version of Plant and Page, one that had experienced punk but not drowned in its ethos.  Basically this was the latest (then current) in a long list of toxic front line duos.  One steered while the other accelerated even if the roles weren’t particularly clear or defined.

At the same time the secret weapon of the unit is Eric Avery who fills out and often opens several songs giving them a magnificent bedding.  Such a stand out performance came amid apparent tensions between him and Farrell over a variety of issues stemming from royalties and naturally ending with women.

Track for track this album is far stronger than you will probably remember.  After the initial surfing curve of “Up The Beach” (a definite intro track) it quickly storms into action with a powerful selection of explosive hits.  This is a record by a band basking in the seedy undergrowth.  That said, the unabashed solos should really have been a no no.

Then it kicks into overdrive with “Ocean Size” and indeed a song that sounds and feels like a good day at the beach.  Not even the overwhelming Navarro solo towards the end can blunt the aspiration of the huge sound.  And this is motion maintain as “Had A Dad” stomps in all reflective, rocking a jubilant big bounce and explosive gestures.  Within this is an early mention of mountains in addition to heavy nods to certain influencing issues.  Then they declare “God is dead”.  These poor lost souls.

The towering centrepiece of the record is “Ted, Just Admit It…” which displays the band at its most devastating.  As Navarro launches a transcending lick over proceedings that feels like an angel towering above, observing the scene Farrell drops in with the observation that “everybody’s so full of shit” before a sample of Ted Bundy informing that there are going to be “people turning up” all over the spectrum.  The legend is that the band included this sample uncleared because they had heard Bundy insisted in defending himself in court and perversely they wanted to be in the position of being sued by the man himself.  It didn’t happen.  However what does occur is Farrell launching into the mantra of “nothing’s shocking” seemingly pre-empting the jaded generations that were to come.  This is a truly disturbing and scary song.  Its sentiments are born to horrify and over the course of seven minutes and nineteen seconds it accomplishes just that.  And no one is innocent as “everybody, everybody” is repeated over and over.  Eventually the song explodes into the conclusion that “sex is violent” working a nod to harmful motions and the seedy things of life.  Away from here the song was used particularly effectively a few years later on the soundtrack of Natural Born Killers do accompany a heinous and guilt laden act.  To sing “show me everybody naked and disfigured” is a levelling gesture, very reductive and surface level harmful to anyone or anything in its path.  To unnerve appears its intention.  Mission accomplished.

As the listener recovers the album unfortunately hits its first bum note with “Standing In The Shower…Thinking”.  It is a hack standard jaunt, easily tossed off and thrown away.  Then thankfully bliss ensues with the “Summertime Rolls” and a pleasant close to Side A.  Its dragged out introduction sounds almost post-rock and something I always swore Mogwai “borrowed” from.  “Summertime Rolls” calms things with more beachy imagery suggesting the kind of festival mindset that was likely to bear Lollapalooza.

Mountain Song” begins the second side in explosive fashion.  By this stage the mountain obsession suggests a band so high that they appear to believe that they can fly.  And who would deny them?

It has to be said after the powerful surge of the first half of the album, the momentum sadly does not maintain.  “Idiots Rule” is lively and “Jane Says” the acoustic number does suggest higher meaning and explanation but somewhat at the listeners expense.  Its not that it’s a bad song, it just cuts into the flow.  And the less said about the backslapping minute of “Thank You Boys” the better.

Finally it all comes to an end with “Pigs In Zen” which gives the record one final shot in the arm which a lurching and explorative gesture.  It comes complete with another great line from Farrell in “some people should die, that’s just unconscious knowledge.”  Destructive to the end, coming from the Manson generation influenced to the end.

I think essentially time has not been kind to them as when alternative rock was taking over the world (the asylum) it was doing so in a less jubilant/triumphant manner and this was just a band too colourful for the version of darkness that was beginning to consume.  Even if they weren’t happy, they were striving to be happy which just made them too popular for the climate and environment.  However they did manage to avoid the trappings and pitfalls that the Red Hot Chili Peppers critically fell into, although Jane’s Addiction possibly achieved this by imploding rather than done out of choice (and not chasing the dollar).

This was a good place to be.  Bands aren’t allowed to do this anymore.

Thesaurus moment: offend.

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