Once upon a time in a land far, far away, Jane’s Addiction where incredibly untouchable.
Those of us who were in bands when they revealed their pain in the shape of Nothing’s Shocking stood a healthy distance away from them, knowing that no matter how hard we worked, we would simply never be that good and thus, saved ourselves the embarrassment by not even trying.
My personal interest in them ran out of steam with Ritual de lo Habitual which was hyped beyond all measure and was, to me at least, a pretty unlistenable experience. Which was just about the right time for the band to call it a day in everyone’s opinion including theirs. If Perry Farrell wasn’t going to die and catapult them into legendary status, it was the sensible thing to do.
When they came back with Strays in 2001, it was as though the ten years in between had never happened – and still there was nobody in the world who could touch them when they were at their best.
Understanding that Jane’s Addiction are not to everybody’s taste is key to getting to grips with The Great Escape Artist. It’s not a great place to start if you’re a fledgling nest-dweller, but if you’ve been riding the car for a long time and are used to the suspension, it’s like coming home. Some of the bite may have gone from the old dog, but that’s fine. Some of the bite has gone out of this old dog as well.
All of the tensity has dissipated now. With nothing to prove, things kind of get like that. With the spewing vitriol of Pigs in Zen left by the roadside some miles back, Jane’s Addiction are playing the smart cards and relying on the twin crafts of songwriting and musicianship. It’s a thoroughly beautiful experience – a headphones album if you will, and without question one of the best albums to be released in a long, long time.
They are still the masters of oblivion and still the closest thing this generation will ever have to The Doors.
One final observation. If you by chance happened across this band in a live scenario playing only this album in isolation, would you come out of the show proclaiming the end of the world and break your band up? I don’t think so. I think you would be mighty inspired to become that great but in that far, far away land sometime during 1989, that was the effect they had on me.
Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi…