“Here we go…!” The last time singer Perry Farrell screeched those words on 2003’s Strays, he was doing exactly what he had done on Jane’s Addiction’s two previous studio releases- introducing songs from one of the most influential rock bands in history. All good things come to an end, so it was bound to happen to a creatively combustible band like Jane’s, but oh what a sweet time we all had.
Internally volatile but musically boundless, Jane’s paved the way for so many other artists; in fact, without JA, global success most likely wouldn’t have found Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or even good buddies The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Alt-rock, art rock…whatever you label them, it’s undeniable they took the idea of theatrics in music, both live and in the studio, to new heights. Original members Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery practically kicked open the door for the alternative/ grunge movement of the 90’s to take its place in history, and dethrone the God-awful mediocre hair-metal that was infecting rock radio and MTV airwaves.
Up From the Catacombs: The Best of Jane’s Addiction does its best to showcase the band’s most compelling material, but like a lot of other “Best Of” albums, some songs and personal faves didn’t make the cut. The gems from all three studio efforts (the band’s 1989 debut was actually a live album, therefore it doesn’t count) are accounted for: Nothing’s Shocking, Ritual de la Habitual, and Strays, including the singles that garnered them the most attention.
Running the gauntlet of Farrell’s varied lyrical subjects and the band’s songwriting talents, rockers like “Pigs In Zen”, “Stop”, “Ain’t No Right”, and the more recent “Just Because” each bounce off the speakers with their usual authority. On the more commercially accessible side, the danceable hit “Been Caught Stealing” takes its place on the album, along with Jane’s biggest hit, “Jane Says” (featuring the better concert version with the steel drum accompaniment).
“Three Days”, Farrell’s lengthy recount of a menage a’ trois and the inspiration for Ritual’s censored cover art, thankfully makes the cut as it’s clearly the strongest Jane’s track overall (and my all-time favorite). The sentimental “I Would For You” and the, um…overtly sentimental “Whores” (two guesses as to what it’s about) are included to represent the early days and show the band’s songwriting growth during their brief 7 year career.
As it is, each of Jane’s albums manage to get their “best of” on this Best Of…, but surprisingly “Jane Says” is the only track from Kettle Whistle, the band’s 1997 rarities album that featured an excellent title track appearance by Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Also MIA is Kettle‘s whimsical “My Cat’s Name Is Maceo” which would’ve added balance to Catacombs by showing off the band’s humorous side. Along those lines, “Standing In The Shower Thinking” (Shocking) and “Wrong Girl” (Strays) are different enough from one another and the rest of the songs on Catacombs, that it would have shown newer fans the endless depth of their music.
Like so many great groups in music history, JA split due to the usual “creative differences”, and that cause and effect reason has been long lasting. Sure, they gave it their best shot and managed to get back together a few times, most recently with Strays (which had Chris Chaney handling bass duties when Avery refused) but now it appears three times was the charm. Navarro stated not long after the release of the last album that the group had parted ways for good, citing the same reasons as before.
Apparently Farrell has approached the other members about writing new material, but so far no one’s biting, and with Avery a solid member of Garbage, the outlook is muddy indeed. Navarro, Chaney, and Perkins have found continued success as well with other projects—The Panic Channel, for one—so revisiting old haunts and picking at old scabs probably aren’t a high priority. Farrell has moved on too, announcing plans with his new band The Satellite Party, but like a lot of Jane’s fans, he is still probably holding his breath for reunion #4.
Although Catacombs gives listeners a fair shot of a “best of”, it doesn’t give anything for true fans to get worked up about, since most of us already have these songs in our collection. Gil Kaufman’s liner note booklet included in the sleeve is a well-written account of the Jane’s mythology; but again, if you’re a fan, you already know the backstory. It’s been hinted that Rhino Records (a division of Warner Bros.) has plans to release a comprehensive box set containing all things Jane’s, but it’s one of those projects that might have the band members bickering about the what the content should be, so it may never see the light of day.
The box set would be a nice treat, but if it never happens, so what? If the original members never again play a single note with each other, is it that such a big deal? We already have some of the most thought-provoking and boundary-busting music by a truly original rock band in recent decades, a band that bowed out as gracefully as they could while on the top of the rock heap. So in case Jane’s Addiction is to be nevermore, I’d like to sum this review up by quoting the only lyric in a song by the same name from Nothing's Shocking: "Thank You, Boys"...it's been a pleasure.