While widely admired and frequently imitated, Jane’s Addiction (now in a 21st century second go-’round, following an interval of Porno for Pyros and a short solo career) is/was pretentious, tasteless and blatantly self-indulgent. The obnoxious Los Angeles glam-punk poseurs recorded most of their debut album (pressed on clear vinyl) onstage at the Roxy in Hollywood. New York-born Perry Farrell sings in an aggressive womanly warble as his three bandmates pound out competent but unoriginal post-’70s rock. “My Time” and the dramatic “Jane Says,” both played with acoustic guitar, show the group capable of moderate musical achievement, but most of the record — especially “Sympathy” (for the Devil) and Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” — sounds like the work of an incompetent Aerosmith cover band. And Farrell’s effete habit of interjecting the word “motherfucker” merely frosts the album’s maggotry.
As guitarist David Navarro and the lumbering rhythm section work themselves into a dull sub-Led Zeppelin metallic stupor on the rambling Nothing’s Shocking, Farrell screeches smugly self-obsessed lyrics — repeating favorite lines over and over — as if his idiotic free-form musings were somehow significant. A new version of the two-chord “Jane Says” contains an even more mannered vocal performance; the rest of the amorphously tuneless material runs either hot (“Had a Dad”) or cool (“Summertime Rolls”), with a laughably crude funk-rhythm detour (“Idiots Rule”). Farrell’s skillful front-cover sculpture of two nude women — joined at the shoulder and hip — with pierced nipples and their heads ablaze is the album’s only convincing evidence of creativity at work.
Pulling himself further into a private world of self-congratulatory decadence (the inclusion of a methadone bottle on the back cover’s botanica shelf is bad news, whatever the intention), Farrell fills the absurd Ritual de lo Habitual with ravings that, when they manage to coagulate into coherence, describe the joys of shoplifting (“Been Caught Stealing,” the pathetic bleat of a spoiled rich asshole that inexplicably begins with barking dogs), masochism (“Ain’t No Right”), supposed solidarity with black people (“No One’s Leaving”) and a nebulous eleven-minute opus about a ménage à trois (“Three Days”). The band’s swirling demi- metal — still limited by Navarro’s slow progress toward the true guitar heroism he would ultimately achieve — is loudly functional, but Farrell’s expanding ego and detachment make the album unbearable. (Because of the front cover sculpture’s graphic sexuality, Ritual was also released in an alternate sleeve that simply offers the text of the First Amendment.)
After Jane’s headlined the first traveling Lollapalooza festival, which he conceived and mounted, Farrell dissolved the band and formed Porno for Pyros. Jane’s reformed in the 21st century.
The 1993 reissue of the pre-Jane’s Addiction Psi-Com EP makes widely available the amusing sound of a young Perry Farrell attempting to channel the voice of Siouxsie Sioux in a transparent effort to catch the British new (goth) wave. Although no one is identified by name, it’s impossible to miss Farrell amid the swirling, atmospheric rock, a proficiently transparent imitation of the Banshees and Cure. After undergoing some lineup shifts, the group finally splintered when the guitarist and drummer became Hare Krishnas. Post-EP bassist Dino Paredes subsequently formed Red Temple Spirits.