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Jane’s Addiction: The Great Escape Artist

Album Review

Rejuvenated art-rock pioneers achieve escape velocity with their fourth album.

The career arc of Venice Beach’s trailblazing alt-metallers, art-rockers and general square pegs has never been one of smooth contours and harmonious meldings. Rather, frictive and fractious band relations, not to mention an unfortunate carelessness with bassists (six and counting), class-A chemical darkness and all-round bug-powder weirdness have conspired to puncture jaw-dropping periods of brilliance with as many of inertia and the merely average.

All props then to whoever tabled the motion to use the original recording desk from Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual De Lo Habitual in order to summon up old ghosts and good omens on this only their fourth album in 23 years. It worked. 

An opening one-two combo of Underground and pre-album taster End To The Lies sends shivers neck-wards much like Up The Beach and Ocean Size did all those years ago. Both vintage Jane’s melodic psychedelic washes and crisp lead textures weaving through riffs pulled from a bag Messrs Iommi and Page thought they had exhausted way back – they’re brought bang up to date with a thread of electronica channelling Killing Joke or Muse. 

Talking of whom, it appears with the addition of TV On The Radio bassist Dave Sitek, they have found theirs. Always a crucial ingredient of the band’s ound (largely due to Dave Navarro’s safety-net-free excursions), Sitek’s bass contributions are the first since Eric Avery’s to perfectly complement proceedings elsewhere. 

There’s a newfound commerciality at play throughout, due in no small part one suspects to producer Rich Costey’s invigorating influence; best exemplified on recent radio-raiding single Irresistible Force and the U2-like Broken People – one of three tracks written with Duff McKagan. 

Of course with any progression there has to be a cull somewhere and those hoping for the blissed-out, slow-burn of Three Days or dirty-street-craziness of Whores may cock an eyebrow, but even Rioja-infused Yiddish Shamen have to hang up their nose rings, corsets and dreads sometime. What really elevates it all to the rather special though, rather than the simply good, is, like all great albums, the quality of songwriting. Whistles, bells and a production to die for are mere icing – as the adage goes: you can’t polish a turd. 

No doubt there’ll be hiccups, line-up changes and drama down the line, but for now, the greatest trick Jane’s Addiction ever pulled off was to escape the past, embrace the future and reconcile with the present. It suits them.

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