Stability is a word missing from the Jane’s Addiction dictionary. In the eight years that have passed since their last studio album Strays, the group have broken up and reformed, put out a greatest hits album, a rarities collection and had something of a revolving door policy for the bass player’s position, with no less than four filling the post in the past couple of years.
Eric Avery’s return to the fold for the first time since the nineties should have been the final piece in the puzzle to reunite the classic Jane’s lineup, but it proved to be short lived, as was former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan’s shift. If you thought that was high profile, enter TV On The Radio‘s Dave Sitek, who contributed bass (and no doubt some knob twiddling) to this album but will not tour, which has earned a recall for Chris Cheney, who appeared on Strays.
Confused? The album is a similar conundrum. The riff-driven Underground is an underwhelming opener with Perry Farrell wailing his way through the song. End To The Lies leans more to the classic Jane’s sound, its minimal dub intro sparking to life under Dave Navarro’s solos and Farrell adopting a gutter punk approach as he spits out his vocals.
As curator of Lollapalooza, Farrell has been on record stating that he used the exposure to other bands and sounds to rethink the creative process for the album’s sound and direction, which trickles out with mixed results. Curiosity Kills certainly sparkles as one of the better-produced songs, bass and percussion driving it as it morphs into a hazy psychedelic number and shows Jane’s at their best.
The midpoint peters with two bland stabs at epic rock with I’ll Hit You Back and Ultimate Reason. Sandwiched between them however is one of the album’s standout songs, Twisted Tales. Farrell is at his most sincere: “I have no mother, I felt no trust, no family structures.”
Splash A Little Water On It swills sequenced drum loops, acoustic guitars and classic solos from Navarro as the album takes a deeper, more psychedelic turn. Broken People picks up on that trail and turns out to be the album’s best moment, echoing the classic Three Days with its rainy guitars, pulsing bass line and Farrell in full flamboyant swoon.
Words Right Out Of My Mouth as a closer proves to be something of a curveball, beginning with a sample of Farrell talking to a doctor about the loss of his voice before launching into the heaviest song on the album, a thrashy punk rock stomper that shifts tempo into an epic breakdown before cranking back to full throttle.
The Great Escape Artist is the least cohesive of all Jane’s Addiction’s albums. You sense a tussle between the band’s desire to push their sound forward while remaining true to it. Whilst there are moments when they do strike the right balance, too often the album meanders into nondescript epic rock territory and lacks the creative punch of their earlier works. It’s by no means a disaster, with some of their best songs sitting in this collection, but even with repeated listens there’s no ridding the sour taste of feeling shortchanged.