“Look Ma, I Discovered Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist (Sort of Like How Christopher Columbus ‘Discovered’ America)”

Just in time for Festivus and the airing of grievances, I present to you the critics’ behavior toward Jane’s Addiction’s 2011 comeback album The Great Escape Artist — spite and rancor which would make even the daunting Mr. Costanza totally proud and ebullient. Let’s start with the Pitchfork review. They sort of typify what annoys me about this mud-slinging critical mentality — they dig up the band’s most glorious days, an era to which it’s impossible to contemporarily live up like bona fide MTV success and the genesis of Lollapalooza, and constantly compare the current-day band thereto. They have no sympathy for the surviving artist simply trying to make one good album in 2011 and rock and make people happy — rather, it’s almost like they treat the new release of The Great Escape Artist as an effrontery, as if its very conception were like a deliberate challenge to or attack on Nothing’s Shocking or Ritual de lo Habitual (the latter of which Rolling Stone gave a sh**ty review anyway).
What I’m going to say about The Great Escape Artist is exactly what goes for the Meat Puppets’ Sewn Together, too — it’s like there’s this built-in inferiority complex on the part of these critics when they approach these projects, this preternatural bitterness over the fact that they’re too young to lay their own claim to this music, now to a vulnerable point where it no longer dominates MTV and culture. They overestimate the ambitions of these bands.
In fact, Nirvana never wanted to take over the world in the first place — they never envisioned, for instance, Seattle becoming such a place of heroic reference, or arbiter of mainstream American fashion (see the Joan Rivers Vanity Fair flannel shot in Hype! for how ridiculous that very “hype” got).
The A.V. Club even gave The Great Escape Artist an F, charging it with the crime before the tribunal of trying “to recontextualize Jane’s for the 21st century” [1]. Elsewhere, aside from calling David Sitek both “hapless” and “brilliant” in the same paragraph, they state that the “F”-garnering album’s “biggest misstep” is its choice of producer. They also state that the lunging toward a seasoned engineer who’s popular within the industry is “cliched.” So by this logic, the worst thing about The Great Escape Artist, hiring a high-profile person to record the album, is also very common, it then standing to reason that the music is better than this common employment practice.
But then, you can’t always call on critics these days to recognize logical fallacies, or to even understand music one iota. For instance, the Pitchfork critic of The Great Escape Artist completely misses Perry Farrell’s technique in “Irresistible Force” of assuming an outside perspective when he says “We’ve become a big business / A galaxy merger!” [2]. It’s like they’re so foaming at the mouth to find any flaws with these bands that they’re incapable of digesting their lyrical rhetoric as irony or literary liberty — everything is taken as guilty until proven innocent.
First of all, if in first digesting an album you have to not only scrutinize the producer and the selection thereof but also be so senselessly and inexplicably hateful as this A.V. Club guy, you have almost no chance of digesting the music civilly — gauging the extent to which it can soundtrack moments, can relax people, can unfurl a lyric that will tickle someone or forge a connection or meaning. I, admittedly a ’90s kid and substantial Jane’s Addiction fan [3], have in fact gotten all of these things out of The Great Escape Artist, and that’s why I wrote this blurb.
[1] A.V. Club’s review of Jane’s Addiction’s The Great Escape Artist.
[2] Alarmingly, I think, the Pitchfork reviewer of Modest Mouse’s Strangers to Ourselves actually missed the fact that in “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)” Isaac Brock was actually not spitting a genuine come-on but actually taking on the outside perspective of this Florida rapist… he also failed to cite the Mouse’s repeated mention of Florida in their songs. Granted, nothing on God’s green Earth could possibly be worse than all of these single-celled organisms missing the fact that White Reaper’s “World’s Best American Band” album title was meant as a joke, given that there can be no American bands inside the world apart from America. It’s ok, only like… EVERY SINGLE douche bag critic I read entirely missed the humor in it.
[3] And BY THE WAY, these lumpy farts online these days suck up to the OLD Jane’s Addiction material so much, the stuff that it’s actually COOL to like, that they completely miss the fact that at a technical level this band even in 1988 was far below the standard — although they had catchy songs like “Had a Dad”; “Jane Says” and “Pigs in Zen”, they played with zero tightness and their drummer sounded lost, doling out lazy, insipid fills like a child doodling around behind the kit.

Leave a Reply