Album review: Janes Addiction/The Great Escape Artist

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Album review: rock
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Perry Farrell, figurehead of 80s Los Angeles art-rockers Janes Addiction, seemed born to be a dark star. Reptilian, razor-smart and outré even for LA, he made great music and great media copy – advocating heroin use and an extremely relaxed/progressive sexual morality.

His meeting with guitarist Dave Navarro was one of those fateful singer/guitarist pairings that can lead to great things in hard rock. Like Jimmy Page/Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop/James Williamson in the Stooges, the Farrell/Navarro evil Siamese twin (together with the blockhard yet funky rhythm section of Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins) exploded with originality and creativity, making three of 80s rock’s touchstone albums.

Not bad for a band so fucked on drugs they could barely remember making them.

Their third, Ritual Lo Habitual – which contains the funk-rock gem “Been Caught Stealing” – typifies the Janes Addiction approach. A widening and deepening of the Led Zeppelin template – a musical version of tectonic plates colliding –  the album swathes Farrell’s already otherworldly voice in ghostclouds of reverb and pushes Navarro’s guitar into slicing overdrive (in what Frank Zappa might call a ‘cocaine decision’ Navarro later went on to scratch away in The Red Hot Chili Peppers for a while… oh dear). This album was a huge hit which led to the Janes disbanding – to quote the inimitable Farrell: “That thirteen-month tour behind Ritual was half the reason we wound up unable to stand one another. The other half is that I am an intolerable narcissist who can’t get along with anyone.”

Apart from 2003’s Strays, the Janes Addiction history is too convoluted and loopy for this short review (but worth a read if you like horror, heroin and hoopla). So I approached this review with trepidation, especially after seeing smoke signals on the horizon whispering that the new album was “Radiohead-like”, “underwhelming”, “Eric Avery-less” etc.

And once again I re-learned the lesson to always trust my own ears. The new one, The Great Escape Artist is pure Janes – intelligent hard hard rock that would give many of today’s young Turks a good kick in the arse. From the Zeppelin-sized opener “Underground” (“We’re all hustlers…”) through to the punky hell-in-a-handbasket ride that is “Words Right Out of My Mouth” (complete with Farrell’s psychiatrist’s couch confession intro) The Great Escape Artist is ten slices of tooth-and-claw, thunderous, LA noir.

The only thing vaguely Radiohead about it is some of the contemporary sonic tricks used by producers Rich Costey (Muse) and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek (who also contributes some bass) to add even further drama to Farrell’s spooky tales of life and death. In Eric Avery’s absence, Duff McKagan (ex-Guns’n’Roses) contributes bass and drummer Stephen Perkins is as tribally funky as ever. Guitarist Navarro is at the top of his already brilliant game – his solo in opener “Underground” is a howling buzzcut spat out with relish. Always a player of great vision, Navarro – like Led Zep’s Jimmy Page – is the intensely exciting combination of a player whose artistry quite happily gets stomped by the joy of making noise.

Perry Farrell sings and performs as if the 20 or so years since Ritual Lo Habitual never passed. He is storyteller, shaman and theatre director in one – delivering the fearsome hook to “I’ll Hit You Back” or the worn-out verse to “Ultimate Reason” with a drama that is rare in rock. The single “Irresistible Force” (“The irresistible force met the immovable object”) has a towering chorus, like all great pop hooks, reminiscent of something you just can’t name (a friend said Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence”, I thought “Rolling in The Deep”).

The Great Escape Artist is the best hard rock album I have heard this year and you don’t know how glad I am to say it is a Janes Addiction record. Let us all hope Eric Avery comes back into the fold, the Janes come to a town near you to promote The Great Escape Artist and that they stay with us a little longer this time.

Published October 2011 on

  1. […] with Janes Addiction’s 2011 album The Great Escape Artist (my review here) it is a still a bit of a thrill to hear any music by rock’s great rule breakers, even now that […]

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