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Jane's Addiction - Up From The Catacombs (The Best Of)

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Sunday, October 1, 2006 @ 9:22 AM


From Warner Brothers/Rhino

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Yes, I am aware that on occasion Parry Farrell and Dave Navarro used to make out on stage….and I also know that I don‘t really care.

Even as that is the case, it’s still hard for me to know whether to consider this band a supreme success or a slight disappointment. On one hand, the self-titled live record Jane’s released set the stage for the creation of the undeniably classic album Nothing’s Shocking, and by the time the follow up Ritual de lo Habitual came out, many were already tagging Perry Ferrell’s group as the second coming of Led Zeppelin. Sure, in retrospect, that assertion may seem as ridiculous as some modern day tattooed mongoloid calling Avenged Sevenfold the next Gun’s and Roses--actually, that comparison is way, way dumber--still, when someone puts that type of label on a band, it’s doubtless that it raises the bar for expectations. Even as that is the case, almost fifteen years after Jane’s prime, no one should have a problem with anyone pointing to a group of songs or even a record or two performed by this band and saying, “damn, they were hands down the best and most inventive thing music had going at that particular moment”. The most obvious distinction history is bound to eventually make between these two bands though is that Zeppelin had a career--Jane’s had a time period--probably one that many wish could have been a lot longer. Then again, there have to be other times when some rockers wonder just how the hell this band ever did anything noteworthy. One glimpse of David Navarro on Rock Star or yet another sound byte from Perry Farrell proclaiming his love for techno generally strikes in direct opposition to the image that this rag-tag group of underground L.A. gypsies had when they were creating an art form, doing drugs and making music rather than promoting products.

Now, of course, the majority of Up From The Catacombs is made up of selections taken from the aforementioned two main releases, Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. Pretty much anyone would have to say though that although Ritual hit the public consciousness at the time the group began to garner the most attention and critical acclaim, it was the previously released Nothing’s Shocking that will always go down as the band’s masterpiece. As a testament to this assertion, there are six songs from the record included on here. Each track is amazingly strong, and if there is one portion of a selection that Perry’s band always excelled at writing, it was the introduction---Jane’s Addiction wrote some of the most compelling introductory notes in rock history. For example, the slow boil that comprises the beginning of “Mountain Song” or the swell of a wave that slams into the beginning of “Ocean Size” are unforgettable…once you hear them, it’s like a Pavlovian experience wherein the listener knows that the onslaught is right around the corner. While those songs use certain tempos to illicit a reaction, “Had A Dad” and “Pigs In Zen” just slam from the beginning and never let up—for anyone who ever saw this band perform one of these songs live, the Zeppelin references suddenly began to not seem so far fetched. Jane’s Addiction was a live force, and this material made them legendary. If that wasn’t enough, the nearly eight-minute “Ted, Just Admit It” and the wistful “Summertime Rolls” round out the Nothing‘s Shocking contributions on this compilation.

Of course, Ritual de lo Habitual contained the biggest commercial hit of Jane’s career with the crooked-smiled, good time fun of “Been Caught Stealing”, but there were several other songs that are just about as amazing--four of which are here. “Stop!” and “Ain’t No Right” are simply straight ahead rockers that have the classic Jane’s Addiction sound stamped all over them. The bass, drums and guitar combine with Perry’s…interesting…voice to create an sound that is instantly identifiable. The gorgeous “Classic Girl” is accompanied by what many consider to be the most ambitious song the band ever produced in “Three Days”. On this track, metaphors combine with revelatory lyrics and swirling instrumentation that ranges from beautiful to powerful to exhausting. This ode to an old friend and lover may truly have been the band’s single finest hour artistically.

The few songs that are left--which weren’t on either of the more obvious albums--are ironically most likely the reason this collection exists in the first place. Namely, there is the inclusion of two tracks from the band’s latest record Strays--the mostly annoying “Just Because” and the Aerosmith-esque “Superhero” are placed here in an effort to make it appear as though that last album really had something to offer, and it did--songs that were completely inferior to those of the band’s earlier work in every conceivably way. Sure, “Whores” and “I Would For You” from the live debut are always welcome as is the performance of “Jane Says“ that was previously only available on “Kettle Whistle,” but to say that any of these could compete against some of the tracks that were left off from either Nothing’s Shocking or Ritual is kind of a stretch.

In retrospect, as I look back, I realize that nothing about this band could have done to make me dislike their music. I didn’t care when Perry Farrell finally cut off his famous dreadlocks or even the time I read this Spin interview with the singer some years later where he was asked to explain his sexuality in relatively specific terms. If my memory serves me correctly here, Farrell said something to the effect that he wasn’t exactly gay but that he did, in fact, once let guy go to town on his wiener. At the time, Perry said that he thought that it would be a good idea to let a dude go down on him because he thought he would probably do a good job, since, in theory, he should have known what a guy wanted. Instead, Farrell said something like the experience was really disappointing because the guy went at it like he was “eating a corn cob” or something. I always thought that was the funniest thing…not sure why…maybe it is the whole dude on dude thing…but I doubt it. I think it just had mostly to do with the nibbling business. Some cobs ain’t meant for nibblin’ ya know? Sure, on the outside, it looks as if the parts that comprised Jane’s Addiction couldn’t have possibly ever equaled the whole in which they became…but they did. The whole prospect makes me believe that sometimes the personalities and talents involved in a band may not be nearly as important as the timing and spark that particular group has during a given particular moment. For whatever reason, auditory lightning just happens to strike here in a way that could never, ever happen again. These were simply a group of individuals who for a time were divinely inspired by everything around them, and this inspiration and drive gave the world one fantastic record and good portions of two others. Regardless of whether Perry engages in any more corn cob-like activities or if Dave Navarro gets it on with Tommy Lee or if they all get it on with each other, the image I have of the band that made up the early 90’s era Jane’s Addiction will never be altered in my mind regardless of what they as individuals eventually evolve or degenerate into---they could all go on to make careers out of screwing geriatric lepers for all I care.

Thankfully, it is because their music was so inspired and powerful that everything else was allowed to be secondary…as it should be.

***


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