The dark, heady, ballsy intoxication of Jane’s Addiction resurfaced as a low-calorie lager in the form of the group’s 2003 comeback, Strays. That said, the album isn’t really that bad. But The Great Escape Artist is. Where Strays pays homage, albeit diluted and misguided, to the primal force Jane’s Addiction once was, Great Escape is a bold, erratic, pathetic attempt to recontextualize Jane’s for the 21st century. Or something.
Great Escape’s biggest misstep is one of rock’s most clichéd: hiring a hot, hip young talent from whom to siphon youthful energy. In this case, that hapless check-casher is Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio, a brilliant musician and producer who’s done his best to help Jane’s grandfather itself into modernity. But Sitek fails badly here. His loopy basslines and ambient bloop-mongering aren’t terrible on tracks like “Underground” and “Twisted Tales”—they’re abominable. Or at least they’re abominable when used as a crutch for the toothless menace and wrinkly lust that Perry Farrell and crew are trying to peddle. On “End To The Lies,” the singer feebly accuses, “You sit around there telling stories / taking chips for old past glories”—minus a redeeming trace of irony or self-awareness.
As oblivious and anemic as Farrell’s lyrics and vocals are, guitarist Dave Navarro is even weaker. Once a pioneering navigator of the postmodern slipstream between glam tradition and alt-rock innovation, he now simply strums some shit. Jane’s Addiction’s biggest crime, though, isn’t growing old. It’s failing to realize that a group so beloved, iconic, and epochal can—and should—grow old on its own merits, rather than someone else’s. Or in Great Escape’s case, no merits at all.