“Jane’s Addiction Has Released Exactly One Album in Each of the Last Four Decades Prior to This One”

I’ve been doing all these big shot lists lately as a sort of feel-good ploy during the COVID pandemic but much to my annoyance, I’ve recently just noticed that I totally forgot Jane’s Addiction on my ’80s and ’90s ones. More than likely, if nothing else, “Jane Says” should have graced that ’80s post — it’s got an incredible vibe of renewal and pastoral beauty on it, with a pretty underrated guitarist in Dave Navarro strumming out that proud and deceptively simple chord progression.

But anyway this JA phenomenon is just funny to me — it reminds me of Nolan Ryan pitching in four different decades, the ’60s to the ’90s. Of course, part of the factor of only one JA album coming in the ’90s can be chalked up to Perry Farrell’s side project Porno for Pyros, which isn’t talked about much today but really in their time were a pretty prominent act, landing a couple videos on MTV like “Pets” and “Tahitian Moon” and really reaching just about the notoriety his first band did.

Part of my issue, anyway, with Jane’s Addiction, who assuredly pumped out some entertaining metal and probably sidled a couple steps into “next Led Zeppelin” territory, is that I really think their drummer might have been a tad bit subpar. He basically sounds like a fifth grader on “Ocean Size.” Generally, this band is probably not known for its work ethic (I remember the scathing Rolling Stone review of Ritual de lo Habitual, an album I happen to like, wherein the critic was joking that “practicing” hadn’t didn’t sound like it had been on the band’s itinerary as of late, or something along those lines), a bunch of LA boys always goofing off and having fun in the sun.

But Perry Farrell is one of those frontmen who, let’s be honest, is larger than his band. He’s the sole curator, as far as I know, of Lollapalooza, a festival which started as a nationwide tour but now has I think cleverly evolved into a stationary, one-weekend expedition (also how about housing it 2,000 miles from his native LA… that took some sacrifice without question but business savvy too), and undoubtedly the only festival from the early ‘’90s that’s still alive today with the exception of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest. He spawned some thing called “Kind Heaven” too, I remember, which whether or not it ever officially came into existence was apparently envisioned as some giant world within Las Vegas where you travel by virtual reality to Southeast Asia. The project apparently involved the expense of approximately $90 million.

In general, he’s a guy who nurtures the music industry in his own way and is worth rooting for, which is part of why I was so appalled to see the “F” rating that the A/V Club gave to Jane’s Addiction’s last album, 2011’s The Great Escape Artist. More than anything, it was disrespectful to a band that was really pretty instrumental in pioneering the grunge movement. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, for one, has been outspoken in his praise of their debut album Nothing’s Shocking, which lent the song “Ted… Just Admit it,” wielding of the album title, to Oliver Stone’s dark masterpiece Natural Born Killers. Their next album, Ritual de lo Habitual, was pretty scattershot but featured this uncanny three-song string of exclusively seven-minute-plus tracks. I don’t know of any other band that’s ever pulled that off — those 20-minute songs by Yes and bands like that can only go two deep on an album [1] and even Led Zeppelin’s comfort zone seems to have been in the six-to-seven-minute range, a la “The Battle of Evermore” and “When the Levee Breaks” both clocking in at something close to that. But this side b section of Ritual is the real dead: “Three Days” is epic metal, “Then She Did…” is a haunting tale of artistry, family and mortality and “Of Course” is a gloriously post-punk scathe unto cutesy, idealistic views of the world in which we live (for the record the closeur “Classic Girl” is a gorgeous, pliable nugget of acoustic pop in its own right). Strays (2003) is solid alternative rock and The Great Escape Artist (2011) is an expansive art-rock web of its own, with the cosmogonical “Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)” gallivanting as the centerpiece with the spooky idea that this very clichéd conundrum is essentially the encapsulating impetus behind the creation of our current universe. Anyway, let’s hear it for frickin’ Jane’s Addiction already. Que va!


[1] Check that: there is this new ambient jazz group The Necks which just released a double album this year of three 20-minute songs… well don’t take my word check ’em out!

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