Jane's Addiction

Capitol, 2003

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The original Jane’s Addiction was destined to fall apart quickly, which was part of the charm. Provocative lyrics, an amalgam of styles and a volatile musical stew mixed with an offhand charm defined the band’s first two records, which became and remain mainstays of the then-new alternative rock movement. Shortly after Ritual De Lo Habitual, the band ceased making music in the studio, turning its attention to Lollapalooza (which they founded, of course) and, eventually, solo projects. The implosion was swift and expected, but Jane’s had paved the way for alt-rock to take over the airwaves and the zeitgeist, so their job was done.

But like most alt-rock bands, the allure of nostalgia and the need for money due to failed solo projects brought most of the band back together; in Jane’s case, it was in 2003, to headline the failing Lollapalooza and try to recapture what made them great before. They walked back into a musical world that had drastically changed in 12 years; gone was grunge and accessible alt-rock and in its place was nu-metal, rap-rock and the beginnings of the brief garage-rock revival. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

To their credit, Jane’s didn’t try to fit in, but the songs on Strays also show the expected maturity gained in the preceding decade. A decade after starting out as an art-school kid singing of the decadence he witnessed firsthand in Los Angeles, mingling sex and Jesus into lyrics and an album cover that got banned, Perry Farrell would have looked and sounded ridiculous following that same path into his 40s (a lesson Anthony Kiedis has yet to learn, but that’s neither here nor there). The band has grown up, and so the lyrics are smoothed over, agreeable, unmemorable.

Dave Navarro remains potent, though, doing the most to make this band sound like Jane’s Addiction, and certainly their sound remains unique. The missing element is bassist Eric Avery, who has clashed with the band multiple times, and whose basslines are sorely missed; one review at the time said every great Jane’s song has a memorable bass riff, making Avery the unsung hero of those great early records.

But this album is not to be dismissed either, because it’s still three-quarters of Jane’s Addiction, and it’s still good alt-rock music. “True Nature,” “Just Because” and “To Match The Sun” are solid, pretense-free rock songs, while “Wrong Girl” adds a bluesy Zeppelin-inspired guitar riff to the band’s repertoire, suggesting another direction they could (should?) have taken with their sound. The title track and “Superhero” are fine songs as well. Really, there’s not a bad track here, other than the trite ballad “Everybody’s Friend,” though a few of the cuts like “Hypersonic,” “The Riches” and “Suffer Some” don’t leave much of an impression.

The odd thing is, there are probably some fans who think the best moments of Jane’s are the straight-ahead rockers like “Mountain Song” and “Stop!,” and that contingent will get the most out of this. There’s plenty to like about Strays, to be sure, but it’s also evident that maybe what made the band so great in 1988-91 was their weirdness, their provocative nature, their psychedelic sex, the genuine sense that listening to them was somehow wrong. You don’t get that on this album, and maybe that’s for the best, but it still stops the album from being genuinely necessary. After this one, Jane’s would call it quits again for another decade, then try again with a similar-sounding album in 2011, with much the same results.

Rating: B-

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