Jane’s Addiction, ‘The Great Escape Artist’ – Album Review
Jane’s Addiction have been called many things since forming in Los Angeles way back in 1985, but prolific is not one of them. Over the course of a quarter-century, Jane’s have managed to release a grand total of just four studio albums — and that’s including their latest, ‘The Great Escape Artist,’ which drops today (Oct. 18). That said, don’t mistake that lack of quantity for an absence of quality.
When Jane’s Addiction first burst out of L.A. scene in the mid-’80s, there was nothing else like them. Combining arty bombast and epic guitar rock delivered through an intoxicating narcotic haze, Jane’s immediately offered an attractive alternative to the hair-metal then ruling the city’s Sunset Strip.
Their first two albums — 1988’s ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and 1990’s ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’ — were considered instant classics, watershed discs that helped spawn the ’90s alternative movement even before people realized the movement was happening.
Fast forward two decades, and Jane’s are at it once again. Singer Perry Farrell and the band have reunited and again parted ways a several times, and the whole enterprise began to take on the feel of nothing more than an extended comeback tour, with the guys staying together just long enough to make one more album — 2003’s ‘Strays,’ a disc best known for featuring the ‘Entourage’ theme song..
With ‘The Great Escape Artist,’ Jane’s Addiction seem to have a focus on the present. Lead track ‘Underground’ kicks things off with an invigorating energy that announces the band’s renewed intentions, yet it’s still a song that could certainly hold its own next to the bulk of ‘Nothing’s Shocking.’ In fact, ‘Underground’ sounds like the monster ‘Shocking’ jam ‘Mountain Song’ recast as an angular, post-punk anthem, with swirling electronic flourishes and studio trickery thrown in for good measure.
Elsewhere, the aptly-named ‘Curiosity Kills’ finds JA experimenting with a melodic, post-industrial vibe — and the results are killer. Think mid-tempo Nine Inch Nails with tribal drums, soaring guitar solos from Dave Navarro and Farrell’s trademark vocals inflections. ‘I’ll Hit You Back’ shows what happens when they keep things concise; the straight forward verse-chorus-verse format, dense with harmony and synth, seems like a likely contender for next single.
Founding bassist Eric Avery passed on the chance to rejoin Jane’s in the studio this time around, and that may have been a good thing. Ex-Guns N’ Roses four-stringer Duff McKagan accepted an invite to take over, but lasted only a few months before stepping aside himself (he’s credited as co-writing three tracks). In came David Sitek of New York indie outfit TV on the Radio, a studio whiz who smudged his distinct sonic fingerprints all over ‘Escape Artist.’ Like the new electro-Jane’s sound? Thank Sitek.
Regardless of what you think of Sitek’s contributions, ‘The Great Escape Artist’ finds Jane’s Addiction in a good place: comfortable with their legacy as alt-rock innovators, yet willing to expand their sound and take it to new places.