en: The Great Escape Artist [info]
Jane's Addiction are a peculiar band, one whose exotic, uncompromising initial body of work - 1988's Nothing's Shocking and 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual - should have logically left them as the sort of cult act that mostly lived on in hipster namechecks following their split in 1991.
In fact, breaking up may well have been the best thing that ever happened to Jane's Addiction, allowing singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro the space to become bona fide Gen-X celebrities via other projects - Farrell founding the Lollapalooza festival, Navarro taking his top off lots on MTV - while sparing them the need to try and top those two phenomenal records.
By the time 2003 comeback album Strays came around, the band had been reformed on-and-off for six years and were very definitely pushing the nostalgia act envelope. Strays was actually perfectly serviceable, especially thunderous lead single Just Because; but it was inessential, the sound of a vastly diminished force. Eight years on and there's a fourth album, The Great Escape Artist, and it's… okay.
Actually, it's pretty good, especially if you consider that this is the work of a bunch of middle-aged former drug addicts and their session musician accomplices. Irresistible Force builds impressively from watery minimalism to the sort of stadium-sized chorus few bands have the gall to attempt these days, let alone pull off. And nobody could accuse them of trying to write another Mountain Song on a record that by-and-large sees them tuning down the guitars in favour of layered, lush electronics and gleaming, proggy hooks, whist still packing in enough narcotic bombast to fundamentally sound pretty Jane's Addiction-ish.
That 'ish' is the problem, though: The Great Escape Artist was painstakingly assembled over the course of a year, and even its quirks feel frictionless and smooth next to the savage mania of yore. Farrell's lyrics are split between the hey-kids-we-still-know-how-to-rock sentiment of songs like opener Underground and more contemplative fare like Splash a Little Water on It, where he seems to look back at his hedonistic days with some distance. But he doesn't seem to have anything to say about being a 52-year-old man, and if The Great Escape Artist doesn't feel forced, it rarely feels like it comes from the heart. Perfectly serviceable, but this band missed their chance to make a third great album decades ago.