Tag Archives: TV on the Radio

Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist

Jane’s Addiction

The Great Escape Artist


“You never really change like they say” Perry Farrell says on “End To The Lies” from  Jane’s Addiction’s latest The Great Escape Artist, “You only become more like yourself” like some sage realist speaking from the years of toil his band has endured in the past two decades. 

What he doesn’t tell you is how Jane’s Addiction hasn’t really toiled that much in the past twenty years.

 In fact, let’s remind everyone that for 15 of the band’s 25 year-existence, Jane’s Addiction has been little more than a brand of their former life, a credible and-let’s be honest-critically important band in rock and roll’s underground.

 What began as a stand-up gesture (breaking up) has now turned into a bunch of compilations and a few reunion gigs that sounded more like money grabs than a reprise of a creative rebirth.

Same goes for Strays, the first return that they tried to sell me as album number four.

 However, The Great Escape Artist certainly doesn’t sound like they’re trying to “become more like yourself,” in fact, it kind of sounds like they’re trying to become Interpol. I’m sure a lot of this is from the band of Dave Sitek, on loan from TV On The Radio, who took over bass duties while shoving his nose into both the songwriting and recording process and certain points.

 His entry came after the departure of Duff McKagan, the former GnR bassist who pulled out because he was worried about the amount of electronics the band was implementing for their new direction.

 For me, this event signaled trouble-regardless of how regarded Sitek is, I was sure that Mc Kagan’s concerns were valid, because Jane’s Addiction was primarily a rock band underneath all that pretention and Jewish dreadlocks. To put ‘em all in front of electronic gadgets would surly cause a creative overdose.

 Surprisingly, all Sitek has done is remind the band of their darker overtones, thanks to an armful of Joy Division records and a messenger bag full of studio gadgets that guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Steven Perkins can build riffs upon.  His role, it seems, is that of the band’s program director. And while original bassist Eric Avery is noticeably missing on the low-end duties, Sitek has done an admirable job of piecing together a collage of sounds that Jane’s Addiction would have aspired to without actually being able to with their original line-up.

 “We’ve become big business…God is a merger” Farrell declares on “Irresistible Force,” speaking to our societal perceptions while sounding completely blind to the fact that it also speaks volumes about Jane’s Addiction.

And you know what? When you begin to look at it from that perspective-that the band is at least aware that they’ve become more of a brand image than a real threat, then The Great Escape Artist became surprisingly easier to listen to.

 This is a record where it’s obvious that they’re not following the conventional wisdom of considering a direction that would be more favorable to their retirement package. Instead, it’s a record of trying to squeeze as much muse into the project as they can, even if that means letting an outsider pull it all together in a manner completely different to what they’re accustomed to.

 It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow for old fans, particularly the ones who enjoy Avery’s role as band unifier or Navarro’s shirtless power chord posturing. They’ll have to come to terms with the reality that Jane’s Addiction is ignoring to the very tools that made them successful in those early days of  the “alternative” overthrow.

The Great Escape Artist makes the band seem like they’re making a sincere attempt at trying to add to their cannon and while it doesn’t reach the heights of their earlier work, at least it’s working to get there again.


TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain

TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie MountainTV On The RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

If this record could be summed up in a single phrase, that phrase would be: “a multitude of anxieties.” The places that Return To Cookie Mountain takes the listener are some very dark places indeed, filled with the type of imagery that calls to mind sci-fi films, or emerging from the other side of a war having seen and experienced horrors that you can’t even begin to describe.

The war in Iraq itself seems to have a presence on this album—witness the first track, “I Was A Lover,” a song that waltzes jerkily around, all bleating horns and waves of guitar fuzz, until it draws the sneered conclusion “It’s been a while since we knew the way / And it’s been even longer since our plastic priest class / had a goddamned thing to say.” On “Province,” after observing that “your history’s ablaze,” lead singer Tunde Adebimpe pleads (with backing vocals by none other than David Bowie) “Hold these hearts courageously / As we walk into this dark place / Stand steadfast erect and see / That love is the province of the brave.” These lines could be interpreted any number of ways, but it is seems very much more than just a simple love song.

In fact, every song on this record could be analyzed on a very facile level just by saying “this song is ____ but it is also more than ____.” While it is part of a music writer’s job to parse out exactly what that thing is, sometimes it is impossible to do anything but observe the blanks and ask the listener to fill them in. These songs are dense; the layers and layers of guitars and acapella choruses and little tweaks beg to be interpreted and reinterpreted and discussed endlessly, but above all, they beg for attention. They beg to be heard. There aren’t enough unwritten paragraphs in the world to convey that.

MP3: TV On The Radio – “Wolf Like Me” (Video: AOL, Yahoo).