Nothing’s Shocking

Jane’s Addiction

1988: Warner Bros. 9 25727-2

  1. Up the Beach
  2. Ocean Size
  3. Had a Dad
  4. Ted, Just Admit It…
  5. Standing in the Shower…Thinking
  6. Summertime Rolls
  7. Mountain Song
  8. Idiots Rule
  9. Jane Says
  10. …Thank You Boys…
  11. Pig’s in Zen

This album and Ritual de lo Habitual clinched my conviction that Perry Farrell is one of the United States’s best living musical poets and that if it took heroin use on his part to tap that voice, so be it. My opinion of drug use is laissez-faire but dismissive, but in Farrell’s case I had to seriously consider the weight of the resulting evidence and grudgingly decide that perhaps for some people it really can be a good thing. I don’t understand how and certainly wouldn’t advocate test-runs to anyone wishing to see if they’re in that category, but in Farrell’s case there’s an electric current of genius running too fast to be caught another way, apparently.

Certainly there’s something otherworldly and superhuman about his vocals, even at their most animal and rough (“Ocean Size” comes to mind strongly); he has that fantastic ear for knife-edge harmonics that Sting used to use to great effect on Police tracks, but in Farrell’s case it’s just a notch further up the scale of “epic.” “Jane Says” was the first of his songs to seize my ears with that acid touch, and it still haunts me in the same hot-asphalt L.A. summer way. And the theological thrashing of “Had a Dad” is epiphany distilled to supercharged drug form.

I recently saw (thank you, Internet) a 1997 concert review that described Jane’s Addiction as “the Last Rock ’N’ Roll Band Before The Apocalypse;” although the reviewer (Roy Trakin, writing for Addicted to Noise) said that was wrong, I think he got it right after all. Not that Jane’s Addiction has stopped—that stuff was timeless in the most powerful sense of the word the second it was put on tape—but it definitely is a sound of a time and of the feeling of a tensely extended moment of history.

I’m surprised that so little has actually been written about “Jane Says” (at least online), considering how viscerally intense that track is.