The roots of the band are complex but go back to Farrell’s time in Los Angeles band Psi Com. As that project faltered he began to cast for different players and enlisted original Addiction bassist Eric Avery, a fellow Velvet Underground and Joy Division lover. Drummer Perkins and guitarist Dave Avery completed the line-up that made them a sensation on the local club scene and persuaded their new label bosses to let them record the self-titled debut live at The Roxy with additional sessions carried out at The Edge Studio with producer Mark Linett, more usually associated with The Beach Boys. While this album dipped its toe in the water it still contains fine versions of the Velvets’’ “Rock n Roll” (from Loaded), the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy” (for some reason they omitted the “For the Devil” on the cover) and the early signature tune “Jane Says” something they still play regularly and often close out on live. The track is about and is dedicated to Jane Bainter, the band’s namesake and mentor in the beginning.
“Jane Says” also appears on the first true studio disc, Nothing’s Shocking, where they move their operation to Eldorado Studios and enlist producer Dave Jerden. (Chosen partly because of his engineering feats on the David Byrne/Brian Eno masterpiece My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. A re-recording of “Pigs in Zen” and the chancer to hear the older track “Mountain Song” make this a must-hear. Special guests are Angelo Moore on sax and Red Hot Chili Peppers stalwart Flea on trumpet! There are some other curiosities on this disc: “Standing in the Shower…” and “Ted, Just Admit It…[**]” are further reasons why the album has become revered as one of the greatest releases of the 1980s.
Just as their star started to burn Jane’s Addiction imploded around the time of Ritual de lo Habitual, though that title contained the sub-text for their misgivings. Personal problems and the demands of constant touring took a heavy toll but they still took part in the inaugural Lollapalooza circuit.
Ironically they made it big here with “Been Caught Stealing” (chosen as a Desert Island Disc on the radio programme of that name by the legendary Alice Cooper) and “Stop!” and so 1990 and 1991 were classic JA years. Inspirational, committed and liable to self-destruct the band were an example of what happens when too much fame gets in the way of the main objective. But that doesn’t detract from the amazing songs within, of which “Three Days” stands out thanks to Navarro’s amazing guitar solo.
Jane’s first album for Capitol, the mighty Strays, came out in 2003 with a new bass player, Chris Chaney, and a Bob Ezrin production. Ezrin was called on because of his reputation for having worked on Lou Reed’s Berlin and the metal years of the Alice Cooper Band, also Pink Floyd and Kiss, different strands of the music Farrell and co. grew up on.
The Grammy nominated "Just Because” is famous of course but the nu-metal mood is enhanced by orchestration, horns, backing vocals and a taste of country provided by John Shanks on mandolin.
Ever eclectic, they maintained their old hard rock core but added layers of subtlety that repay discovery today. And so no surprise that it takes another eight years before The Great Escape Artist arrives in 2011. With David Andrew Sitek helping out on bass, programming and guitars and the Master Musicians of Joujouka (once employed in an earlier guise by Brian Jones of the Stones) adding percussion to the epic “End to the Lies” this is a comeback album of importance. Check out the brilliant “Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)” with its haunting synths and electronic soundscapes and the Duff McKagan collaborations like the dark “Ultimate Reason”.
Deep within the grooves though the old playfulness, humour and genre busting continues to exact a hold. This is a fine disc for the current era. Check it on the Best Buy Deluxe edition where a live disc offers a virtual greatest hits of favourites.
We also recommend the 2103 Live in NYC and the Best Of – Up From the Catacombs. Those with endless fascination will gravitate to the box set A Cabinet of Curiosities, “a really nice fetish object” according to Perry and one stuffed full of rarities, demos, memorabilia and all the associated tricks and treats the true fan demands.
While their career has been divided into segments in the thirty years they’ve been extant Jane’s Addiction are a force for good. Their side-projects, Porno for Pyros, Deconstruction, Banyan, The Panic Channel and The Satellite Party have kept the various members keen and honest. Their legacy is felt in everyone from Korn and Smashing Pumpkins to System of a Down and Strapping Young Lad. Just as they looked up tos their idols back in the day the Addiction men are now heroes in their own right. Time to join the habitual ritual and get addicted to Jane.
Words: Max Bell
The last time that Jane's Addiction headlined Lollapalooza behind a high-profile album was, of course, 1991. Much changed in 12 years, though, and the declining fortunes of Perry Farrell's breakthrough festival during the summer of 2003 were matched by a desultory return from three-fourths of the original Jane's Addiction lineup on its third full album, Strays. Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Eric Avery (who declined his reunion invitation) had been a vision of '80s musical heaven since their studio debut, 1988's Nothing's Shocking. Farrell's art-school intelligence and originality made the band interesting, while Navarro's and Perkins' background in heavy metal (they're both significantly younger than Farrell) gave the band punch, adding the melodicism of power pop and the constant riffing of thrash. Though Strays possesses all these characteristics -- it's undeniably a Jane's Addiction record, and a powerful one at that -- it also illustrates that the group's formidable musical talents have been subsumed by an apparent quest to save its legacy. For Strays is, most of all, a safe record. Farrell's regal, echo-laden vocals are intact (and out in front like never before), as are Navarro's ragged, lyrical guitar solos, but the songs lag far behind. In fact, they never even approach the level of any Jane's material from their two proper albums. This isn't a record that would allow a throwaway stunner like "Been Caught Stealing" (the tossed-off jam that became the band's biggest hit) or the majestic ten-minute epic "Three Days." In their place is a set of majestic jams influenced by Farrell's second Porno for Pyros LP, Good God's Urge, a mystical mishmash of musical feelings and textures, not songs. The allure of Jane's Addiction is undiminished by Strays (this is still a band creating music unlike any other group on earth), but the imagination, bravado, and songwriting smarts apparent from their previous classics is missing.
Words: John Bush
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. Frankly, the shift toward the ethereal is a welcome relief after the clean lines and bright L.A. sun of Strays, an album that emphasized rock over art. Here, the preference is reversed and the group reaps some benefits, often touching upon the dark, boundless exotica of Nothing's Shocking yet managing to avoid desperation; instead of re-creating sounds, they've recaptured the vibe, which is enough to keep The Great Escape Artist absorbing even when it begins to drift.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Alternative gods Jane's Addiction broke up and re-formed multiple times following their late-'80s/early-'90s heyday, riding the genius of their early albums into respectable updates on the sound for 2003's Strays and 2011's The Great Escape Artist. Live in NYC is another concert document capturing the band in their always visceral live show, this time performing a N.Y.C. gig in support of The Great Escape Artist in July of 2011. Not surprisingly, the set list is packed mostly with material from their first three albums, with the band playing roughly half the songs from 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, several tunes from Nothing's Shocking, and opening the show with an unexpected rendition of "Whores" from their self-titled 1987 album. The two later tunes that sneak into the set -- "Just Because" and "Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)" -- feel natural, easily the best inclusions on a set consisting mostly of crowd favorites. Perhaps the band's master statement, the epic "Three Days" is a standout here, reaching toward the same dizzying moments of blind euphoria as the original, and "Ocean Size" also comes close to the electricity and screaming bliss of its recorded version from decades past. Though the band has kept a fairly strong grip on the magic that they summoned in their youth, the years still show on some songs. While musically sound throughout, with wild and inventive guitar work from Dave Navarro, vocalist Perry Farrell's yelping, unhinged voice sounds breathless and raspy, straining for the primitive howl and higher range of yesterday. This isn't quite enough to detract from the complete feeling of the set, but for a band where multi-tracked vocals are central to most of the songs, Farrell's shortcomings in the live setting are especially noticeable. He makes up for it with some of the more unfiltered between-song banter of any of the group's official live recordings, going to show that the spirit of uninhibited exploration of life's possibilities is still alive and well in modern-day Jane's Addiction. By the time the band trots out the obligatory encore of "Jane Says," easily one of their most popular tunes, you get the feeling they're anxious to wrap up the set and move on to the next party. Farrell hangs back, his vocals fading below the audience singing along, obnoxious steel drum accompaniment, and the sound of confetti and balloons being launched out into the crowd. Live in NYC documents an off-the-cuff celebration. The feeling is that of a one-of-a-kind band running through the moments that made them famous, and while inessential listening, it's joyous and powerful all the same.
Words: Fred Thomas