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“Jane’s Addiction’s Strays (2003) is Apparently the Best-Kept Secret in Rock”

It’s impossible to overstate with words how strange it is to me that Jane’s Addiction didn’t lead with “Wrong Girl” for this album. At track seven, the song is just ridiculously cool, and plays as the album’s undeniable energetic and semantic centerpiece, painting seedy, enervating pictures of East LA in quintessential Jane’s Addiction fashion. Dave Navarro pumps in first with a funky guitar run belted out in seven-four time, and then, it would seem, all theories that Ritual de lo Habitual were “the last real Jane’s album” [1] would be dashed to shreds by just how rich and awesome this mix sounds, with, of course, none of the members sounding bad or off-point [2].

Actually, I have a theory as to why the band chose to lead with “Just Because,” probably a B+ song or so with nowhere near the potential to be as big as “Been Caught Stealing.” They were askance before the idea of glamorizing violence at the onset of George W. Bush’s goonish annihilation of Iraq in 2003. 

Perry Farrell, you see, is a guy with a distanced perspective on things. In my boss’s office at work there’s a sign that says “Status Quo Sucks.” Perry Farrell kind of embodies this tenet, to me. He’s not satisfied being an interchangeable cog in the corporate American machine. In fact, this very idea, this ideal of affirming your existence by standing out and being unique, is the very semantic vehicle behind the lyrics of “Just Because”: “When was the last time / You did anything / Not for me / Or anyone / Just because?”

In choosing to lead “Just Because” and not “Wrong Girl,” Jane’s Addiction were injecting an element of individual thought and cognitive autonomy from corporate America that they saw as missing from the present cultural landscape in our country. Of course, it’s interesting to think that the band lived in LA, perhaps the most liberal town in America, and so were exposed to nowhere near the stature of redneck opinions that I was in South Bend, Indiana (which then in turn is nowhere near the most redneck town in our state, by any stretch). And obviously, many people would say it were foolish to try to functionally guide the messages in our culture with a lead single on a rock album, with said initiative being purportedly insignificant, a teardrop in the stormy sea that is our bulbous nation. But these guys realize that change starts with the self and they’re still be more satisfied looking in the mirror at what they want our society to move to, than toting some chic “self-awareness” crap, or whatever the Jones’s want them to.

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[1] This is the nauseating opinion of some online scabs who profess some inexplicable allegiance to the founding Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery.

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[2] Honestly, after going through Strays straight through I can’t even get through the track “Ain’t No Right” one single time — the band isn’t tight and the recording just has no shape to it, with a bunch of arbitrary, shi**y-sounding parts just heaped onto each other like a pile of laundry.

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