When Jane’s Addiction first hit the music scene in the early 80’s, no one had heard anything like it. They posed an attractive alternative to the then mega-popular hair bands and blazed the path for the alternative rock movement of the 90’s, thus making their first two albums, Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual De Lo Habitual, instant classics. After 25 years, 2 break ups and new members, it is no surprise that Jane’s fourth studio album The Great Escape Artist, which dropped October 18th, has a new sound and very different feel from their earlier work. Of the album, lead singer Perry Farrell says, “I love being able to escape my past, even though my past was great. I just love the future even more.”
Jane’s classic hits such as “Jane Says” and “Been Caught Stealing”, had a distinct simplicity to them with a hard bass groove, tribal-like drums and Farrell’s characteristic pinched, raw sound over the whole thing. The new album takes a much denser, heavier direction that appears to have very little remnants of that classic sound. Before recording began on the new album, original bassist Eric Avery left the band (again) and was replaced (again) by Chris Chaney, who played on Jane’s third album Strays. Chaney shares bass duties with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. Sitek’s influence can be heard on tracks like “Twisted Tales” and “Underground” which have TV on the Radio-like layering as well as a much fuller, more electronic sound.
The band takes a risk by experimenting with different genres on Escape Artist. The most successful single off the album so far, “Irresistible Force”, is catchy and powerful, and comes off like the hard rock anthems that were popular in the early 2000’s. The band also tried a somewhat pop rock sound on songs like “I’ll Hit You back”, and utilizes Coldplay-esque keyboard layers and voice swells on “Curiosity Kills”, and resembles a light metal band on “End to Lies” and “Words Right Out of My Mouth”. This variety adds interest to the album but seems to sacrifice any coherent feeling or groove the album might have. It seems to be more of a collection of songs than a concept where each of the songs leaves you wondering if you might have changed artists. The only thing that reminds you that you are still listening to Jane’s Addiction is Farrell’s unmistakable tone, and even that changes a bit from song to song with different effects and reverbs added to it.
Overall, I applaud Jane’s Addiction for embracing the new electronic age of music and experimenting with their sound. However, this album seems to lack the elements that made Jane such a phenomenon in the 80’s and early 90’s. The Great Escape Artist is worth listening to but I doubt it will stand up to the ages like the band’s earlier albums have.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P
Key Tracks: “Irresistible Force” “Underground” and “Curiosity Kills”
RIYL: Soundgarden, Dave Navarro, Porno for Pyros