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Jane's Addiction: Strays


Jane's Addiction

Album: Strays
Label: Capitol

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Perry Farrell's best work has aged better than his persona: While Farrell's self-indulgent druggie-huckster mysticism often crossed over into self-parody, his work with Jane's Addiction was at once tuneful, larger-than-life, and fearlessly emotional. Listening to his early albums provides an intriguing reminder of how easily grunge and glam once co-existed, derived as they often were from the same wellspring of alienation and confused romantic longing. (See also: Mother Love Bone.) Few acts attempt such a feat today, as most modern-day bombastic rock has evolved–or is that devolved?–into a product more streamlined, aggressive, and emotionally distant. Consequently, a new Jane's Addiction album in 2003 can't help but seem a little bit anachronistic, but Strays does its best to match the band's familiar flourishes with sleekly whomping production. Thirteen years removed from its most recent studio album (Ritual de lo Habitual), a period during which Farrell turned out mostly uninspired work with Porno For Pyros and a quickly forgotten solo disc, Jane's Addiction clearly strains to pick up where it left off, but Strays careens convincingly through the motions anyway. From the opening bash of "True Nature," which eerily recalls the outsized stomp of Audioslave, the album sounds appropriately massive, even as it incorporates spacey interludes ("Superhero") and a strong undercurrent of funk ("Wrong Girl"). Classic-rock producer Bob Ezrin applies a bigger-than-big sheen throughout, but that's a double-edged sword: Like the heavily hyped debut of the aforementioned Audioslave, Strays sounds like an event, and the mix does justice to the considerable talents of guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, but the whole enterprise rings somewhat hollow. Strays masterfully re-creates the surface of Jane's Addiction's sound, but in the process neglects to capture the band's vulnerability, its many idiosyncrasies, or even the all-important sense that Farrell has much left to say. A great album in sound but not substance, it's a worthy facsimile and not much more or less.