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Cover Art

Jane's Addiction ( )

Strays
Capitol ( http://capitolrecords.com/ @CapitolRecords )
What would Peter Pan sound like if he had grown up? Would he still crow? The magic of Jane’s Addiction in their prime always lay in the fact that Perry Farrell and company sounded childlike. Not in an unaccomplished way; instrumental prowess was never questioned- just that there was always an air of discovery and exuberance to the band. That innocence and enthusiasm was always what got songs like “Standing In The Shower Thinking� or “Ain’t No Right� over with even passive listeners. That playfulness is what still makes those songs sound fresh today. Thirteen years after the band who defined alternative rock’s last release Jane’s Addiction have resurfaced a little older and grayer with Strays; an ironic title for an album that does nothing of the sort. Where once the mighty Jane’s Addiction were testaments to reckless abandon and indulgent excess, Strays shows a group of men competently holding back. Throughout the record there are the hints of the chaotic energy that once reigned supreme in Jane’s music, but the band deliberately tries to snuff them out. As has always been the case with Jane’s Addiction albums, the first single, “Just Because,� is not at all representative of the rest of the record. A better reference would be the title track which is much closer to vintage Jane’s insofar as the bass driving the song. Fans and bootleg collectors will recognize the now decade-old “Suffer Some� which, along with the new “Wrong Girl� and the aforementioned title track, comprise the triad of best songs on the album. Elsewhere Strays just bogs down in turgid metal clichés that are way past their expiration dates (“Price I Pay� and “The Riches� are the worst offenders) and even attempts to recapture the martial urgency of “Chip Away� to no avail on “Hypersonic.� As if to make it explicit that the group has grown up and become more world wary, Jane’s Addiction even attempt another acoustic ballad a la “Jane Says� in the nervously cynical “Everybody’s Friend,� a sentiment that the band does not wear well at all. Farrell’s voice isn’t given to cynicism or dewy-eyed hindsight and to presume as much alone makes these songs fall flat. Ultimately, save for a couple of gleaming moments, Strays leaves a lot to be desired. Whether they intended it or not, Jane’s Addiction sound, well, older and more reserved. Had they opened it up full bore, Strays could have definitely been the record that broke the band back into the mainstream instead of being a tepid attempt at professionalism. The seeds of possibility are there however, and like Robin Williams in Hook, if they ever remember how to crow Jane’s Addiction will fly high again. We can only hope.

By Bill Adams
Mar 13, 2004

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