This time feels right for Jane's Addiction 'relapse'

 

July 11, 2003

BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC

 

When Jane's Addiction first "relapsed" (a term it preferred to "reunited") in 1997, 10 years after its self-titled debut and seven years after it disbanded at the height of the musical revolution it helped inspire, it was way too early for alternative-rock nostalgia.

Helium-voiced singer Perry Farrell, inventive guitarist Dave Navarro and nimble drummer Stephen Perkins first reconvened to cut a mediocre new track, "Hard Charger," for the soundtrack of "Howard Stern's Private Parts." A series of tours followed, and while they were good, they were ... well, nothing shocking.

A procession of hired bassists came and left (Flea and Martyn LeNoble initially filled in for the still-absent Eric Avery), and a smattering of new material appeared in the group's sets. But the highlights of its concerts were the still fresh-sounding, sensual and wonderfully psychedelic anthems from the three classic albums it produced between 1987 and 1990.

 

 

 

headlien:LOLLAPALOOZA 2003

Jane's Addiction, Incubus, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age, the Donnas and Jurassic 5

*12:30 p.m. Saturday
*Tweeter Center, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park
*Tickets $59 (pit and pavilion), $49 (lawn)
*(312) 559-1212

 

For all intents and purposes, one of the most consistently groundbreaking bands of the alternative era had become an oldies act. That's the reason why its new album, "Strays," comes as such a pleasant surprise.

While the group's signature mix of glam-rock gender-bending, Led Zeppelin riff-pilfering, and funk and worldbeat grooving isn't quite as revelatory as it was in the early '90s--and the new album is marred by several tracks that are simply generic hard rock ("The Riches," "Superhero")--songs such as the rollicking opener, "True Nature," the dynamic roller-coaster ride "Price I Pay" and the seductive ballad "Everybody's Friend" stand with the best the band has produced (tunes such as "Been Caught Stealing" and "The Mountain Song," which remain staples on modern-rock radio).

As befits a group whose sound is timeless, Jane's Addiction turned to a producer, Bob Ezrin, who has transcended several movements and genres to help craft some of rock's most ambitious and artistic epics (Lou Reed's "Berlin," Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare" among them).

"Going in, it was exciting at first, because we missed each other's sound, and the idea of going back in and getting to hear something new between all of us was a pretty amazing idea and concept," Farrell says of recording the new disc. "And then, once we got in there, the rubber hit the road. It was a little shocking--kind of like getting a splash of cold water in your face. It feels good, but it's stimulating, and it opens your eyes."

In the years after Jane's disbanded, Farrell fronted a new group, Porno for Pyros, which included Perkins among its members, and made a strong techno-inspired solo album, 1999's "Rev." Navarro played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and made his own idiosyncratic solo disc, 2001's "Trust No One." What does Jane's give these musicians that they couldn't find in any other situation?

"You know, the nature of their playing is unique unto themselves," Farrell says of his bandmates. "Stephen, for one, is not a drummer who is held to 2/4 [time], kick and snare. He's a guy who can throw polyrhythms into things, and he likes to. It's almost like Grateful Dead mixed in with Led Zeppelin. His playing is very alive, and it's got a lot of personality to it.

"Stephen often tells me that he likes to hear me because he plays off of my accents. It's an amazing thing to have a drummer who's listening, because I change the way I sing a lot from night to night, just to keep it interesting. Much like a jazz guy would do, I can slide my vocal in in a million different spots, and when he hears me doing that, he starts to accent off of it. It's kind of like the way Keith Moon accented off of Roger Daltrey. He had the same thing.

"Then you've got Dave, who is a ton of personality on the guitar," Farrell continues. "He's not stuck to power chords; his playing ability is amazing. I liken him to a guy like Robbie Robertson meets Jimmy Page. He will embellish a hoot or a scream that I would do, as well as keep the rhythm down, and then he's a guy who can blast off into a solo, and his solo is just insanity!"

Like many fans, Farrell was disappointed that Navarro didn't solo more on his own disc.

"I think he was trying to go away from guitar," the singer says. "And I thought, 'Well, that's fine and dandy, but you know, honestly, God has made this guy one of the greats on the earth, as far as I'm concerned, when you put a guitar in his hand, and that's what I want from Dave--I want to hear him playing.' There might be a lot of guys out there that can play, but there aren't many that have a team and have a great recording situation and a chance to perform in front of large bodies of people like Dave.

"We've got a great musical situation where we're a touring band that is known, so when we come to your town, there's publicity about it, and that's where we really get off--onstage. Recording is a wonderful thing, but I would say live playing tops that. That's where you really get to see what a band is about."

When Jane's Addiction tops the bill Saturday at the revitalized Lollapalooza (the traveling day-long alternative-music festival that Farrell launched in 1991), it will mark the Chicago debut of a new bassist, Chris Chaney.

Still missing in action is Avery, the band's original bassist, whose looping, dub-inspired lines were an integral part of the group's early sound.

"I have a lot of reasons why I didn't do it," Avery said of opting out of the reunion in '97. "I believe that the past is the past for a reason. I haven't seen a reunion that's worked for me; I see them as being worse versions of past days. That's how I feel about them all, whether it's Fleetwood Mac or the Buzzcocks or Jane's Addiction. There's a certain time-specific aspect to great music, and when you try to force it, it doesn't quite come off."

"Strays" would seem to prove Avery wrong, and Farrell is even more enthusiastic about where the band will take the new material in live performance.

"I'll be honest with you, not only do I look forward to the shows now, I really look forward to rehearsals, and that's something that in the past was a bit of a chore," he says. "Maybe it was because we didn't like each other that much before; that's probably the biggest part of it. But aside from that, these songs are so playful live and we get off on playing them. When you hit the stage, it's something that you look forward to, as opposed to, Man, Im tired and Ive been on the road for six months.

Its more like surfing. I look forward to surfing, even though it takes a lot of energy out of you. I look forward to singing these songs in the same way.

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