The Great Escape Artist

Jane's Addiction

Capitol, 2011

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


So, evidently, Jane’s Addiction plans to start each decade with a new album. 1991’s Ritual De Lo Habitual, 2003’s Strays and now 2011’s The Great Escape Artist. And you thought the length of time between U2 releases was long.

The lineup is the same as before sans bassist Eric Avery, and he is missed. Newcomer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio) takes over on bass duties and gets writing credit on seven of the 10 songs. Former Guns ‘N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan helped write/play on the other three.

As to the sound...well, this band not only helped define the alternative scene but launched one of the era’s big musical tours (Lollapalooza, for those under 20), so it would be assumed that they would attempt to recapture the glory days, as many other reformed ‘90s bands have done. However, this is not exactly the case, as the album’s title makes clear; gone is the weirdness, provocation, and overblown majesty of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Nothing’s Shocking. The new disc is more metal, more layered and modern. Singer Perry Farrell cited Muse and Radiohead as inspirations for the sound, and it shows.

Part of the appeal of older Jane’s songs is the rhythm section, the power of Stephen Perkins and Avery’s fat, gothic basslines, but for the most part that aspect of the music is relegated to the background. Dave Navarro is the star, his flurry of guitar tones and layers of sound driving the album more than Farrell’s yelp, which has matured (along with his lyrics) in the last two decades.

This approach means there is not much akin to those old epics like “Ocean Size,” nor is there anything with the sort of insouciance as “Been Caught Stealing,” but rather an evolution of those sounds. Songs like “Twisted Tales” and “Irresistible Force (Met The Immovable Object)” are appealing, moody pieces reminiscent of both U2 and Muse, while “Underground” rides a good riff and a wash of sound to fine results. The songs are unmistakably Jane’s Addiction, but bullshit-free and updated for the Obama age.

The layers of sound are still present on several of the songs, but they don't really create the epic feeling of a track like "Three Days," where it all meant something. But longtime fans will find their band somewhere under those, just as they may find meaning in “Broken People,” a tune about the addicts of Los Angeles written with a mix of pity and detached observation. Lines like “No you can’t help them out / They’ll break you in two” seem full of regret, as does all of the morning-after relationship song “Splash A Little Water On It.” Things wind down with the STP-esque grind of “Words Right Out Of My Mouth,” complete with guitar solo, and it leaves you wanting more.

The truth is that The Great Escape Artist has little in common with Nothing’s Shocking, and it’s unfair to think that it would. Although a little overproduced and underwhelming when taken song by song, as a whole this is a good modern rock record, no more, no less. Hopefully it’s not another 10 years before the next disc.

Rating: B

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