Release Date: Oct 18, 2011
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Dance-Rock, College Rock
“[i]We’ve become a big business[/i]”, crows 52-year-old frontman Perry Farrell in his inimitable way on ‘[b]Immovable Force[/b]’, and while that might be true of [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a], having only produced their fourth album since 1985, they operate with the sort of diligence exercised by Enron before it went bankrupt. No matter: another long-awaited offering finally drops and it’s wonderfully enchanting. Ostensibly [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a] are one of the true titans of alternative rock, but ‘[b]The Great Escape Artist[/b]’ is a pop-wolf in rock-sheep clothing, laden with the kind of killer songs that kept [a]Duran Duran[/a] in cocaine and yachts in the 1980s.
Taking their sweet time to bounce back from the indifferent reception to their 2003 reunion Strays, Jane's Addiction reemerges eight years later with The Great Escape Artist, an album that draws a direct connection to the group's murkier, dramatic moments. Part of this return to the mystic could be due to TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek manning bass for the majority of the album, but his artful spaciness is grounded by numerous songwriting collaborations with Guns N' Roses Duff McKagan, thereby offering a tidy encapsulation of Jane's Addiction's yin and yang: whenever they threaten to float too far off into space, they're pulled back to earth by a heavy dose of Sunset Strip sleaze. This tension had urgency in the '80s, now it’s delivered with finesse, enough so that the whole of The Great Escape Artist appears to favor spaciness even when guitars are grinding out metallic grease.
Despite the involvement of TV on the Radio's studio wiz Dave Sitek, this first album in eight years is still recognisably Jane's Addiction: a bombastic take on art-rock underpinned by Dave Navarro's virtuoso guitar work. There's nothing here to match the wildly brilliant ambition of their late-80s/early-90s peak, but "Underground" packs a hefty punch, while frenetic closer "Words Right Out of My Mouth" sounds like an ornithophobic Stooges. They come unstuck on the workmanlike "Ultimate Reason", and lyrics about " smoking till four, five or six in the morning" suggest 52-year-old frontman Perry Farrell is reluctant to grow old gracefully, but those are minor grumbles.
Let’s get this out of the way early on: ultimately, Jane’s Addiction are a band still living off the outrageously high quality of their early releases. And here, early means 20 years ago. While 2003’s Strays demonstrated that these guys could still play loud rock music in their late thirties-forties, it didn’t really prove much else. So here we are, a few more bassists down the line (original bass player Eric Avery, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Duff “Guns N’ Roses” McKagan and now back to session whiz Chris Chaney), several, let’s face it, nostalgia-fuelled tours to pay the bills and, now, the band’s fourth studio album proper.
Jane’s Addiction have always been a bit different. Actually, a lot different. That’s what made their last “comeback” album, 2003’s Strays, somewhat disappointing (though better than expected with 13 years of studio rust to shake off and no Eric Avery). Strays sounded more streamlined and straightforward, the band’s signature quirks and strange digressions between explosions not quite quirky or strange enough.
The year 1991 was a significant one in Jane's Addiction lore, marking both the launch of the L.A. art-rockers' Lollapalooza travelling-circus experiment and the announcement of the band's dissolution. Now, on the 20th anniversary of those events, both brands are still making headlines, despite enduring extended periods of inactivity, aborted restarts, and organizational restructuring.
Jane’s Addiction is one of the most revered bands to come out of the alternative-rock movement, and both singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro have proven annoyingly durable as celebrities, facts which make it easy to forget that the group has only released three studio albums in 24 years. And 2003’s Strays, like their latest, The Great Escape Artist, is of questionable canonicity to fans of the classic lineup; the Jane’s Addiction that anyone is likely to really care about is responsible for exactly 20 songs released over two years. That’s not unheard of, but usually the only way to obtain such a skewed ratio of available material to enduring cache is by dying young or going off the grid, which amounts to the same thing, almost never by enjoying a lengthy public retirement punctuated by stabs at productivity.
Good on Eric Avery for getting out of Jane's Addiction when he did. The former bassist and founding member who reluctantly rejoined only to re-quit soon after might have saved this mistake of an album had he stayed. Then again, maybe not; Jane's are barely a real band any more. They still tour, but when it comes to songwriting they email each other tracks rather than get into a room together, despite the fact that they all live in L.A.
Last month, a friend had warned me that the new Jane’s Addiction single was awful. He was right. A subsequent search on YouTube to look up “Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)” ended with the discovery of a bland, largely tuneless exercise in modern-day modern rock, made worse by the decision to affix the track to a “lyric video”, thus ensuring that Perry Farrell’s woeful verses about everyone being stars going supernova or some nonsense could not be ignored no matter how hard I tried.
Jane’s Addiction’s fourth proper studio album, The Great Escape Artist, is a bold, brazen attempt to reclaim its early nineties mainstream radio success and to once again sell a huge amount of records. But let’s get one thing straight right from the start; the fact that it is overtly commercial does not necessarily make it a bad album. Jane’s Addiction 2011 finds the core trio of vocalist Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, clean and sober from the use of hallucinogens and psychoactive substances.
Crooked Fingers “In my dreams, every time, your apocalypse is mine,” Eric Bachmann sings on his new album as Crooked Fingers, “Breaks in the Armor” (Merge). Disasters and sorrows — a typhoon, a landslide, illness, love going cold — fill his latest songs, which are true to form. Mr ….
Serviceable, but Jane’s missed their chance to make a third great LP decades ago. Andrzej Lukowski 2011 Jane’s Addiction are a peculiar band, one whose exotic, uncompromising initial body of work – 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual – should have logically left them as the sort of cult act that mostly lived on in hipster namechecks following their split in 1991. In fact, breaking up may well have been the best thing that ever happened to Jane’s Addiction, allowing singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro the space to become bona fide Gen-X celebrities via other projects – Farrell founding the Lollapalooza festival, Navarro taking his top off lots on MTV – while sparing them the need to try and top those two phenomenal records.