Jane’s Addiction updates alternative rock

Eli Watson

Jane’s Addiction has been a definitive force since its inception in 1985.

Helping pioneer and redefine the alternative rock scene that grew with fellow acts Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction rose to prominence with hard riffs and funk-laced beats. The always eccentric Perry Farrell fronts the band with Iggy Pop ruthlessness and David Bowie theatricality.

Returning with The Great Escape Artist, Jane’s Addiction strives to remain relevant in rock’s ever-changing realm and succeeds with a few minor blemishes.

Jane’s Addiction’s strong point has always been their songwriting. Each song remains captivating from beginning to end, providing smooth transitions that snatch the listener’s attention.

Opener “Underground” explodes with fuzz guitar and bass. Farrell and Dave Navarro’s harmonies are haunting, evoking feelings of discomfort like Stone Temple Pilots or Alice in Chains. “Curiosity Kills” is like a Nine Inch Nails song, the discordance between the eerie piano keys and diving guitars interlocking with Farrell’s distorted vocals.

Jane’s Addiction finds beauty in darkness. They have broken away from their past and, like the risk takers they are, have renovated their sound in ways that their contemporaries either failed to do, or never did. Where alternative acts The Smashing Pumpkins have found it difficult to remain a part of rock’s present-day universe, Jane’s Addiction solidifies itself alongside Radiohead and Pearl Jam as alternative rock’s godfather.

The band’s new sound comes at a price: At times the album can be overwhelmingly moody. Past albums like their debut Nothing’s Shocking was a rocking pendulum that moved from roaring hard-hitters (“Mountain Song”) to poppy guitar jangles (“Jane Says”) in a way that made the album digestible and listenable. The Great Escape Artist does not. There is no real contrast in between songs and although penultimate track “Broken People” attempts to retrieve lost ears with melodically melancholic chords, it comes too late.

The Great Escape Artist is a fitting name for Jane’s Addiction’s return. They escape from their self-branded sound and reinvent themselves as magicians of alternative rock darkness, only to fall short of greatness with an album that relies on overused tricks.