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Jane’s Addiction

+ {Porno For Pyros} + {Perry Farrell} + {Satellite Party} + {Psi Com}

Fronted by the fiery and flamboyant Perry Farrell, JANE’S ADDICTION were hardly shrinking violets when it came to combining arty alt-rock with a hybridised anti-grunge hard rock. Although the charismatic Farrell and Co – described by Essi Berelian as “the aural equivalent of a psychopath’s nightmare” – never quite fulfilled their potential after the ground-breaking albums that were turn-of-the-90s sets, “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual De Lo Habitual”, the Norman Bates of rock’n’roll was on hand to take us into further visionary post-punk/funk enterprises, PORNO FOR PYROS and his own SATELLITE PARTY.
Formed in 1985 in Los Angeles, California, NY-born/Miami-raised Farrell had been part of mid-80s post-goth group PSI COM (alongside guitarist Vince Duran, bassist Kelly Wheeler and drummer Aaron Sherer), although little was forthcoming ‘cept for a now-rare eponymous EP. Finding the likeminded Eric Avery while pursuing a bass player for his old group (both had penchants for The VELVET UNDERGROUND and JOY DIVISION), he was, in turn, introduced to Avery’s younger sister’s boyfriend, Stephen Perkins (on drums), and guitarist Dave Navarro.
Kicking up a storm wherever they played (Scream was a typical venue), JANE’S ADDICTION duly inked a massive 6-figure deal at Warner Brothers, although the group wished to fulfil an obligation at Triple X (one assumes), an independent who financed the quartet’s eponymous live album, JANE’S ADDICTION (1987) {*6}. While the record’s naked intensity went some way towards capturing Farrell’s skewed musical vision (`I Would For You’ appeared here first), there was room for a couple of covers by way of LOU REED’s `Rock’n’Roll’ and The ROLLING STONES’ `Sympathy…’.
More in line with drawing in punters from all over the nation, the band’s inaugural Warners set, NOTHING’S SHOCKING (1988) {*8}, was a wilfully perverse and eclectic blend of thrash, prog and metal that, musically and lyrically, made L.A.’s cock-rock brigade look like schoolboys. Farrell’s creepy shrill was something of an acquired taste, although it complemented the abrasive, mantra-like music perfectly, from the juddering `Pigs In Zen’ to the bleakly beautiful `Jane Says’; also two from their live debut. The record courted controversy almost immediately, with its sculptured cover art depicting naked female conjoined twins on fire, strapped to a sideways rocking chair. Produced by Dave Jerden (who’d worked as an engineer on ENO & BYRNE’s “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts”), the near-Top 100 album excavated the haunting `Ocean Size’, `Had A Dad’ and the ALEX HARVEY-esque `Mountain Song’. Live, the band were just as confrontational, Farrell stalking the stage like some transsexual high priest.
RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (1990) {*10} was the Jane’s meisterstroke, combining the compelling musical dynamics of their previous effort with more rhythm and melody. The result was a UK Top 40 hit for `Been Caught Stealing’, a funky paean to the delights of shoplifting. Inevitably, JANE’S ADDICTION incurred the wrath of America’s moral guardians (yet again) and the record’s menage a trois sleeve was banned from several retail chains. The band replied by re-releasing the Top 20 set it in a plain white sleeve with only the First Amendment printed on it. Axeman Navarro was in his element on hard-rock opener, `Stop!’, while sticksman Perkins was equal to the machine-gun rattling of `Ain’t No Right’. Almost prog-like in execution and timing, the self-absorbed tryst of the interconnected `Three Days’, `Then She Did…’ and the awe-inspiring `Of Course’ (clocking a total of 26 minutes), twisted as many times as a 70s YES set or an early RUSH album, although some ghostly get-out-of-the-80s jail-cards were dealt with further mind-blowing exaltations courtesy of `Classic Girl’.
The following year, Farrell organised the first Lollapalooza tour, a travelling festival of indie, rap and alternative acts. It was while headlining this jaunt that the band reached its messy conclusion, Farrell eventually coming to blows with Navarro and splitting soon afterwards.
While Nav subsequently joined the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and released a solo set (“Trust No One”), Farrell formed PORNO FOR PYROS with Perkins and a cast of likeminded musicians, including guitarist/sampler Peter DiStefano, bassist Martyn LeNoble bass (ex-THELONIOUS MONSTER) and guest DJ Skatemaster Tate. Their 1993 eponymous debut, PORNO FOR PYROS {*6} was akin to a more aggressive, less mysterious ‘Addiction. Nevertheless it reached the Top 5; Farrell’s realised splendour and stylish spectacle preceding him in spades. Named after one of the album’s lesser highlights, there was confrontation and lyrical bite on the likes of `Pets’ (a minor hit exploring extra-terrestrial life-force), `Black Girlfriend’ (in the wake of the post-death of Rodney King riots in L.A.) and the medley-fied `Cursed Female’ & `Cursed Male’.
Following personal problems and a drug bust, the band eventually released a follow-up three years later, GOOD GOD’S URGE (1996) {*7}, a more heavy-lidded, narcotic-centric affair which even featured Navarro on one track: `Freeway’. Said to be inspired by the wondrous Zuma Beach in California, and featuring former MINUTEMEN/CICCONE YOUTH bassist, Mike Watt (LeNoble played on half the set), there was a sense the once-fiery Farrell was chill-axing when he recorded `Porpoise Head’, `100 Ways’ and `Kimberly Austin’. Was PETE DOHERTY listening?
The original JANE’S ADDICTION duly re-formed, although with RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS man Flea on bass, initially for some live work. A handful of fresh tracks (from the opening title track to `City Song’) surfaced on the odds ’n’ sods collection, KETTLE WHISTLE (1997) {*6}, but one thinks this was mainly an objective to curtail sales of bootlegs containing versions of their transcendent live performances.
Towards the end of the millennium, the showmanship of PERRY FARRELL was back in action, but in a solo compilation capacity; the album REV (1999) {*6} receiving some tender reviews for his er… carnival of sound. Alongside fitting examples of his work with JA and PFP, there were covers of LED ZEPPELIN’s `Whole Lotta Love’, Bernstein & Sondheim’s `Tonight’ (from West Side Story), LOU REED’s `Satellite Of Love’ and GRATEFUL DEAD’s `Ripple’. In his time as kingpin of the ‘Addiction, there were explosive band versions in a B-side medley of The DOORS’ `L.A.Woman’, X’s `Nausea’ and The GERMS’ `Lexicon Devil’.
The zen-like figure of FARRELL was really back in 2001 with the second instalment of his solo career, SONG YET TO BE SUNG {*5}, a diversion into electronica which almost succeeded in capturing the spirit of global musical enlightenment Perry was so obviously after. With no Lollapalooza ready to extol the virtues of the man’s talents, the visionary aspect of his cross-genre comeback were songs scribed with Brendan Hawkins and Karl Leiker: `Happy Birthday Jubilee’, `Admit I’ and `Nua Nua’; the latter, like the title track, penned alongside Perkins.
While fans expecting a return to the serrated alchemy of yore would have been disappointed by STRAYS (2003) (*6}, JANE’S ADDICTION’s first full-length studio album in more than a decade, the warped genius of Farrell was still evident in fits and starts. Hazy and unfocused, the Bob Ezrin-produced album seemed unable to shake off the sense that it was a continuation of the man’s intermittent solo career, especially bearing in mind that Avery was again missing; his position now filled by Chris Chaney. AVERY, meanwhile, had been busy on a few projects, mainly one-eponymous-album outfit Deconstruction (with Navarro and newcomer Michael Murphy) in 1994, and his own Polarbear. 2003 saw him issue `Why Something Instead Of Nothing’, while five years on Eric’s debut set proper, `Help Wanted’ (2008), was unleashed.
Believing that he could change the world one step at a time, Perry Farrell’s SATELLITE PARTY was to global warming what George Bush, Jr. was to political correctness. Careering towards the 50 mark in years, PF and his rock contemporary-pop parade of Nuno Bettencourt (from EXTREME; on guitars), Chili Peppers pair John Frusciante and Flea, plus guest bassist Hooky (from NEW ORDER), ULTRA PAYLOAD (2007) {*6}, was a million miles away from PF’s previous outfits, although positively Brit-pop glam; check out `Wish Upon A Dog Star’, `Kinky’ and The THIEVERY CORPORATION-collab, `The Solutionists’.
Time then to unleash the beast of a revived JANE’S ADDICTION – of course! Fans were about sick and tired of Perry’s extracurricular activities, and while the band’s comeback set, THE GREAT ESCAPE ARTIST (2011) {*6}, was nowhere near perfect, it was a J.A. record nonetheless. Reaching number 12 in the States (their/his first major success in yonks), it was to have seen the introduction of former GUNS N’ ROSES geezer, Duff McKagan, but he left after contributing three tracks (`Ultimate Reason’, `Broken People’ and `Words Right Out Of My Mouth’), while Dave Sitek superseded Chaney during its rehearsals. Farrell, Navarro, Perkins and whoever else was on board shined on songs such as `Irresistible Force’, `End To The Lies’ and `Underground’. We await “Ritual” Mk.II any day now – we wish?
Several years had passed without a shout from alt-metal royalty PERRY FARRELL. However, just when many pundits had thought he’d retired, up popped a 31 minute solo set. 2019’s part Tony Visconti-produced KIND HEAVEN {*6} didn’t particularly raise the roof as a commercial commodity, but there were “Addiction” moments. And with its hybrid of provocative politics, sex and a potpourri of glam, disco and chamber rock (e.g. `(Red, White And Blue) Cheerfulness’, `Let’s All Pray For This World’ and the Tommy Lee co-penned `Pirate Punk Politician’), the project gurgled above the waves without drowning. Among a permeated guest list of composer credits and seasoned session people (including several slots for his singer wife Etty Lau Farrell), the pop jury was out on `Spend The Body’ and `Machine Girl’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Sep2013-Jun2019

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