The 12 best Jane's Addiction songs, as chosen by The Duke Spirit's Liela Moss
The Duke Spirit frontwoman picks the best moments from Californian alt-rockers Jane's Addiction
Janeʼs addiction were a band I discovered in the summer holidays between my first and second year at secondary school, so I was 13. Looking back I think that was pretty fucking young to get oneʼs head and ears around something so brutal and bizarre sounding, so I salute my chubby, spotty younger self for climbing inside these albums. I recall how I got there; I liked some much more accessible guitar-indie stuff, like The Wonder Stuff, that Iʼd heard on BBC Radio Oneʼs Evening Session with Steve Lamacq. I read interviews with Miles Hunt explaining how much he liked Janeʼs. I was aware that I liked guitars and drums and rock'n'roll, but that the chart topping Guns N' Roses seemed like jokers – kinda like posers. Mainly Axl, I suppose. They just punched too hard and too obviously, and I wanted to burn joss sticks with my rock'n'roll, you know?! This was all pre-Nirvana, so heavy rock in the charts hadnʼt got self-critical or too thoughtful yet. But Perry Farrell must have been; he was penning these quirky, existential and intimate songs.
I used some birthday vouchers to buy two albums on cassette in Our Price on the high street of my town. It was risky because I didnʼt know anything about the music, but I loved the crazy front covers with the pseudo-religious iconography. The first step inside their universe was the live album [1987's Jane's Addiction], and its cover depicting Perry Farrellʼs torso half wrapped-up in a corset. The song titles really excited me; weird but touching on the esoteric like Pigs In Zen. I knew it would be heavy rock, and that they were from LA. Both these facts were massively appealing because of the energy, danger and otherness I associated with them. At home, I sat on the carpeted floor of my bedroom in front of one of the crappiest and cheapest stereos on the market – a Tandy – pushed play and freaked out.
Jane Says (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
This is the first song of theirs that I sang along to with pure abandon and delight. I guess it had a laziness about it that meant I could follow the melody and words accurately and remember the whole thing more easily. Jane was a compelling stranger – she sure was in a bind, stuck for cash; a tough cookie though. I guessed pretty quick she might have found herself selling sex to get by, but I donʼt think it was until a few years on that Iʼd understand that the ‘dinnerʼ she took ‘from her pocketʼ was probably heroin. The snapshots of Velvet Underground songs Iʼd heard up to this point seemed to tesselate with this puzzle that Perry was presenting, and I was starting to enjoy putting the subcultural signifiers together.
Stop (from Ritual De Lo Habitual, 1990)
I was learning Spanish at school, so hearing this intro was pure joy. A sexy womanʼs voice, carried by an odd slap-back delay out through the speakers into my bedroom: I could mimic her and work out what she was saying, then fantasise about travelling far, to South America or LA or whatever, and speak like her with bohemian musicians. Fucking great fantasy and definitely got me doing my Spanish homework. Also, the way Perry screams ‘No one is leavingʼ is inimitable, raw, so explosive. I thought this was one of the most dangerous things Iʼd heard and was totally blown away.
Rock & Roll (Jane's Addiction, 1987)
Hearing this was like slotting the Keystone into the musical infrastructure I had around me so far at 13. This played, and I knew that I knew it, but had to work it out that yes, it was The Velvet Underground which I had heard from my step-mum's tape collection. Hearing it played slightly differently made me realise what an urgent and joyful song it was in the first place. And that I was also inside Lou Reeds lyrics – this was for me! It was summer, I lived quite far from my school. Nobody to hang with. THERE WAS NOTHING GOING ON AT ALL! I WAS saved by Rock & Roll...
Three Days (from Ritual De Lo Habitual, 1990)
By this latter part of the Ritual... album, Iʼm listening past the vocal and am starting to feel a musical synergy which really transported me to some no-space place. I wouldnʼt have known what synergy meant, but I remember the feelings quite distinctly. Falling deeper into my mattress, less aware of the edges of my body and skin and textiles around me. Staring out the window, and being lifted by the initial baseline, and then that galloping rhythm that comes in and circles around and spirals. I just loved it. I guess I should have loved Navarroʼs guitar solos, but I think I always preferred a grooving bass to a guitar solo! Navarro is bringing an Ebo sound in and out, and chopping between metal and slightly psych sounds in this epic track, so he got away with a lot of soloing and it was pretty perfect. 'Erotic Jesus/Loved his Marys/It's a puzzle'. Too fucking right – it puzzled the shit out of me.
The first night that The Duke Spirit began touring with these guys, and I stood in the wings watching them, this was THE track I couldnʼt believe I was hearing. All my teenage ambitions and thoughts hovering above my head – all in the past, but also right there in the moment, live in the show. I felt this incredible gratitude that their music had turned me on to a particular path and now I was a musician on tour. Lots of support tours and a thousand live shows had proceeded this moment, but this showtime felt peculiar and foaming with specialness.
Been Caught Stealing (from Ritual De Lo Habitual, 1990)
So after a while I realised this had been a big single, because I began to notice it when I went to friendsʼ houses who had satellite TV with MTV. I felt so smug that I knew about this band, because this single was so obviously incredibly hot, powerful and cheeky. Love this track to this day, but I guess it is a ʼ90s anthem of sorts.
Summertime Rolls (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
That Janeʼs made songs like this is what set them apart from other schlock-rockers. Perry sings gently and observes the sweetness around him. Thereʼs almost a haiku verse in the midst of the song. Weird harmonies and his low-register vocal doubling the topline create such a strangeness to the atmosphere. Everything he presents in this vignette is clean, innocent, fresh. This is the realness, the un-phoneyness that was part of why I really liked them.
Mountain Song (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
Raw power. The way Perry enunciates 'cash in now BAY-BEE' is so cutting, self-assured. Songs like this meant metallers and alt-rock kids could be friends. Loved it.
Idiots Rule (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
A bit of a carnival, thats how I remember picturing this song. Later Iʼd come to love a bit of brass in my punk rock, getting into Rocket From The Crypt... Iʼm sure this song laid the way for me to keep an open mind about the way bands could mix up the instrumentation and add seemingly incongruous styles into slabs of heavy guitar riffing!
Ted, Just Admit It... (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
This track made me snap into a whole different mode. I wasnʼt listening to music anymore, I think I was shifting uncomfortably as I digested this story about a sister who lost her virginity, and then this general Farrell worldview of violent sex and its proliferation on TV. I watched a lot of films and TV on my own (being an only child with a mum working full-time), so I think I had access to late night TV which revealed the horrors of humanity pretty early. Perry just rams it into your brain. I heralded what he said, and Iʼd be mindful of what the media do to 'make a girl look cheap'. I got the impression that he was something of a feminist – a lot of love for sisters and Janes and moms and Xiolas and girls in his lyrics.
Standing In The Shower... Thinking (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
A total pop song! I couldnʼt quite believe that a vocalist would sing a line so intimate, so revealing as 'Water hits my neck and Iʼm pissing on myself', but I felt huge respect towards Perry Farrell for being that open, so casually indecorous! I donʼt think Iʼd heard anyone admit that they wee in the shower, bath or swimming pool before, and yet we were all doing it, werenʼt we? (I mean – only occasionally.) Iʼd go so far as to say this song has an innocent, jolly and cartoon-esque feel in places, again something that set them apart as way more artistic than your straight-up leather-pant rockers.
Underground (from The Great Escape Artist, 2011)
This track punches in like a fist through a door, and is relentlessly groovy to the end – I love it. Janeʼs opened their set with this when we toured with them in 2012, so Iʼll never let go of that grand, surging and theatrical feeling that is evoked by this song.
Pigs In Zen (from Nothing's Shocking, 1988)
Just hard, live, chugging-the-fuck rawk. The sound of a hot venue and drums bouncing off the wall. Perryʼs vocal timbre penetrating, shrieking, being free-form, spitting. If I hadnʼt had this musical education, I wouldn't have liked Faith No More, or Rage Against The Machine, or then fallen so deeply in love with Patti Smith. Obviously she came first, but I didnʼt know that at this point – or until maybe four years later. Perry laid it all out for me, and got my ears ripe.
The Duke Spirit's new album Sky Is Mine is out on 18th August. Listen to new single Magenta below