Strays: Jane’s Addiction Returns with a Bolder Sound

Jane’s Addiction Are Back With Strays

Twelve years after they first smacked modern rock upside the head, Jane’s Addiction are back with Strays. Producer Bob Ezrin gives the band a bigger-than-big sheen that works well for some of its songs.

But it also leaves many tracks pithier and more basic than the band that once mixed an indefinable amalgamation of punk, metal, funk, junk and the elemental.

True Nature

Blossoming from the Los Angeles underground music scene in the early ’80s Jane’s Addiction made their poodle-rock peers look passe. Following the band’s commercial breakthrough in ’88, the group imploded in ’91. Farrell busied himself with Lollapalooza and Porno for Pyros while guitarist Dave Navarro put out a solo effort that year (the unremittingly bleak Trust No One).

Twelve years passed before the band returned to record new material. Strays features three out of four original members and is produced by esteemed knob-twiddler Bob Ezrin. But the band has shaved off their rough edges, leaving a sound that’s bold and basic. Despite the Zep-riffs and by-the-numbers hard rock, Strays fails to live up to its predecessors. A missed opportunity.

Superhero

Superheroes suffer from a high degree of angst, and they typically live secretive lives with extremely poor relationships. Most superheroes also battle mortal enemies with superhuman powers, and they often are grouped into crime fighting groups.

In addition to spoofing Spiderman and the Doom Patrol, there are also references to the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Batman. There are a few parody-worthy chuckles to be had, but they are few and far between.

Other characters include Flaming Katy (who is a protector and can fly), Merry Andrew (a mute scarecrow dressed in late ’80s fashion), and Jill-in-Irons (wrapped in large chains, possibly a reference to Jack-In-Irons). Also in the Underground is Sylvia, who bears Jane’s feelings of claustrophobia; she is locked inside a small room reciting poem fragments.

Wrong Girl

The first Jane’s Addiction album in 13 years, Strays continues the band’s blending of punk, rock, funk, junk, sensual and the elemental. With three out of four original members, the album is a powerful return to form.

The hedonistic excess and contemptuous bravado of their early days are gone, replaced by more mature songwriting with a broader lyrical focus that nevertheless still captures the essence of Jane’s. Farrell’s voice is as strong as ever, and Navarro and Perkins remain among the best musicians in the business.

12 years after their smack-addled implosion, Jane’s Addiction is back and surfing a wave of newfound popularity with an album that picks up right where 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual de Lo Habitual left off. But can the band keep it together this time?

Hypersonic

The United States and Russia are developing hypersonic weapons that travel faster than the speed of sound. Unlike traditional ballistic missiles, which follow predetermined trajectories, hypersonic weapons can maneuver throughout their flight. This makes them harder to defend against.

The hype around these weapons has fueled big increases in their development budgets and heightened fear, distrust and the risk of conflict between the U.S. and Russia or China. It has also fueled false alarms that can cause nations to react rashly and blunder into war.

To be considered hypersonic, a vehicle must fly through the atmosphere at speeds greater than Mach 5 and have the ability to maneuver during its entire flight. The physics and chemistry of air change dramatically as objects reach hypersonic speeds, roasting the vehicle with radiant heat.

To Match the Sun

After returning to the music scene with the two tracks on the compilation album Kettle Whistle (1997), Jane’s Addiction aimed to make a proper comeback with Strays. With classic albums like Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de la Habitual, the band had gained a reputation as pioneers of alternative rock.

Produced by knob twiddling Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss), Strays is the sound of a cleaned up, drug-free Jane’s Addiction. Vocalist Perry Farrell sounds as sleazy and mysterious as ever, but he’s a less ferocious arch-hedonist than before.

The band is still a joy to hear, with tight waves of crescendos crashing from Farrell’s hypnotic vocals, Navarro’s blistering guitar and Stephen Perkins’ propulsive drumming. The album’s only downfall is a production that sounds more manufactured than on any of the group’s previous releases.

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