Jane’s Addiction are a band from Los Angeles, California that formed in 1984. The band was brought together by lead singer Perry Farrell, who formed a bond with original bassist Eric Avery over the mutual appreciation of British post punk and 1960’s experimentalism. After recruiting the then-unknown drummer Stephen Perkins the band adopted the now iconic Dave Navarro into their band after promising a mutual friend. Jane’s Addiction rapidly became a sensation on the Sunset Strip, their popularity stemming from their sheer inimitability.
They managed to take the decadence of 1980’s arena rock, the intensity of the burgeoning punk/grunge scene and swathed it in drug fuelled psychedelia. Their popularity grew so rapidly that they not only managed to record their first release live in front of a sold out LA audience, but also signed to a record breaking contract in 1987 which exploded them into mainstream consciousness. Despite a tumultuous relationship with one and other the band have been at the forefront of Alternative culture and music ever since.
Jane’s Addiction has released three studio albums in twenty-five years, with their fourth The Great Escape Artist due out on September 2011. Hardly the most prolific of acts, but this merely speaks for the absolute strength of every song in their back catalogue. Admittedly their string of dramatic break-ups did their productivity no favours, but Jane’s were never a band who had to write an album every couple of years to stay relevant (their averaging 7+ years between each album), because they simply didn’t need to. This means that the ritual ‘pre-Reading-Festival-research’ is very easy for Jane’s, your answer; everything.
1988’s Nothing’s Shocking is the first of two bone-fide classic JA albums. A mainstay on any “Best albums of whenever” list and 5-Star reviews aplenty, Nothings Shocking is a revelation. The album’s focal-point being the fantastic “Ted Just Admit It”, it’s a The Cure meet Sabbath take on the obsessive and pervasive media attitude toward sex and violence. The album contains the staple ‘Jane Says’, an acoustic etching of an addict in freefall, seeing JA at their most tender. With other classics ‘Ocean Size’ and ‘Mountain Song’this album saw the band kick start their commercial and critical success on a high note.
This success only continued through to 1991’s Ritual de lo Habitual which came out to rapturous acclaim. Containing definitive anthems such as the buoyant pop ode to kleptomania “Been Caught Stealin’” along with hard-rock master-classes “Stop!” and “Up The Beach” it’s hard not to see why. The albums chef d’oeuvre however, comes in the form of the 11 minute epic ‘Three Days’, which is an iconoclastic representation of a ménage-a-trios. It’s ambitiously poetic, intolerably clever, musically sublime and as sleazy as it comes; this is Jane’s Addiction at their peak. Both classic albums, both featured on Rolling Stones 500 greatest album of all time, have gone multi-platinum. Looking for a starting point? Start here.
Their last album saw the band return after a hiatus of 13 years, and lacking original bassist Eric Avory, to release a 2003’s Strays. The album lacked the funk groove that Avery injected, but they made up for it in pure balls-to-the-wall rock n roll. Lead single ‘Just Because’was nominated for a Grammy. Strays went Gold in the States and was well received by critics. Each album is unique, of its time, and yet totally timeless.
In 1991 Perry Farrell created the inaugural Lollapalooza festival. To many, this was the catalyst behind the Alternative Rock explosion in the early 90’s. It begat a generation christened by Farrell as the ‘Alternative Nation’, this was the generation of RATM, of the Smashing Pumpkins, of Sonic Youth, of Nirvana, of Soundgarden, of Cypress Hill, of Nine Inch Nails, of Pavement, of Red Hot Chili Peppers, of Primal Scream, of Jane’s Addiction, of modern music. Jane’s really were the big bang that initiated the vast universal growth of Alternative rock. Tom Morello (Rage against the Machine) considers JA to be “more influential than Nirvana” citing the band as “inspiring, intelligent, furiously rocking and artistically deep”. NME even gave them their Godlike Genius award naming the revolutionary clique as an “once-in-a-lifetime, inspirational, aspirational, no-holds-barred, genre-busting, risk-taking, pioneering” act. Enough said, nowhere on the line-up will you find a band as iconic, inspirational and innovative as Jane’s Addiction. That’s what JA bring the this year’s festival, they bring a taste of the pre-2000’s Reading Festival, a taste of ‘The Alternative Nation’ that lacks elsewhere on the line-up.
In 1991 after the release of their ground-breaking album Ritual De Lo Habitual tensions in the band we at fever pitch. Drug addiction, ego, artistic differences and a whole host of generic rock star issues had taken their toll. Lollapalooza acted as their farewell tour. Each leg of the tour often ended in turmoil with Farrell and Navarro coming to blows orally and physically on stage; excessive drug use ravaged the band and ultimately at their peak they imploded. The band has reunited in part or in full on a few occasions since, with varying degrees of success. 1997 saw them recruit RHCP bassist Flea to their circus, ending in disaster. In 2003 their reunion was far better received, only for it to implode again. 2009 saw the bands first full reunion (with Bassist Eric Avory) since 1991, the shows were adored by critics, but once again they split company with Avory in 2010. Even fellow LA scenster Duff McKagan lasted less than 6 months. Nevertheless this has always been the most interesting thing about Jane’s, it’s their tendency not only to have their self-destruct button out there in plain view, but to precariously and unapologetically balance each member of the band right upon its edge. With a string of dramatic breakups, reunions, and a conveyer-belt of members, Jane’s Addiction is a band who not only lives on the edge, but more often than not… jumps off. A band so volatile you get the feeling it could explode at any minute, which makes every gig as tense, exciting and fresh as the last.
Because of their influences and their roots it’s not hard to understand their chameleon-esque adaptability between venues. Their music can be vast and expansive as to fill the biggest of arenas (as proved by the 2009/2010 arena tour with Nine Inch Nails), or it can tear through the smallest club with rip-roaring punk rock veracity. Perfect for headliners for the NME stage at R/L, a stage which can act as both and naturally will be. Coming off of the back of a highly acclaimed arena tour, promising new album and several clubs shows filled with fire-breathing strippers, how can you consider seeing anyone else on the night?
Setlist-wise, what to expect? Expect ALL the classics (Stop!, Been Caught Stealin’ etc). But also expect early sunset strip belters such as Whores, and of course expect a few tracks from the forthcoming arena ready new album (End to the Lies, and Irresistible Force). Also expect the reintroduction of songs from their Strays album, the anthemic ‘Just Because’ making it’s triumphant return. This is the sort of set their playing at the moment –
2_Ain’t No Right
3_ Just Because
4_ Ted, Just Admit It…
5_ Been Caught Stealin’
6_ End To The Lies
8_ Three Days
9_ Mountain Song
10_ Ocean Size
12_ Jane Say’s
Ultimately, What is Jane’s Addiction? Well, they’re an entity who take pride in their influences, but also progressed further than their forbearers by creating something new, something timeless, something so iconic and influential that it seems impossible for it to ever sound dated. They are a band who took the raw nihilistic emotion of Joy Division, the experimental and ground-breaking nature of The Velvet Underground added that to the expansive opulence of Led Zeppelin and sent it careering down the late 80’s sunset strip into a sweaty club-come-whore-house, buried its head in a hookers chest and recited some Nietzsche. That’s probably how best to describe Jane’s Addiction and that is your Saturday night headliner.