If Perry Farrell had said, “You’ll have to wait 13 years for the next Jane’s Addiction studio album,” one wonders if the anticipation would have been different preceding this album. Funny thing hindsight, but history speaks in greater volumes. One of rock’s fables is a true classic – the tale of Jane’s Addiction. It’s pretty simple. Band gets together. Band makes music. Band gets famous. Band gets too famous. Band splits up. Swill a lot of Class A drugs between each of the sentences and you’ll get the picture if you don’t know already.
Back, albeit in a very different world – musically and politically – perhaps fittingly their studio return is titled Strays. Straying beyond any genre as the ’80s spilled into the ’90s, championed as Kings of the rather open-ended ‘alt-rock’ category, even then, no one could quite put a label on Jane’s Addiction. While the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Faith No More and Sonic Youth were regarded as peers, there was an almost sacred uniqueness about Jane’s.
Straying back to a musical landscape which has jaded far more than the exploitation of grunge bands and the whole ’90s US rock shebang, Jane’s Addiction are back to reclaim a mantle and respect which has remained intact, largely because no one has threatened it, not even closely. As grunge wilted and Brit pop, new wave, and nu-metal came and went, ask yourself, has anything come along in the last decade to match Jane’s Addiction? Even now. With this exaggerated rebirth of rock n’ roll. An overblown industry of cool, where anyone with the look, and an affinity for the old school can be classed as rock ‘n’ roll. Well hell, George W Bush is rock ‘n’ roll!
With Strays, Jane’s Addiction rediscover their sound as easily as flicking on a light switch, while adding a healthy dose of primed Y2K production. It is their most accessible, varied work to date, and, from the OTT chomp of opener True Nature, to the hedonistic, acoustic number, Everybody’s Friend, absolutely everything is here. Perry Farrell’s eternally youthful vocals are flabbergasting, as is axeman Dave Navarro’s array of bastardised Page and Jimi Hendrix string work. With melodic leanings steeped in references from the rugged Nothing’s Shocking, to the diverse, richly layered soundscapes of Ritual de lo Habitual, all in all this record is a testament to the reputation Jane’s command, and most importantly, a record in the true spirit of Jane’s Addiction.
To this scribe’s naked ear, a combo of vintage Jane’s, Led Zeppelin, and The Smashing Pumpkins best describes what comes to mind, plus a few surprises here and there. A very welcome return, and highly recommended, this is THE first great album of the new millennium.