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Jane's Hard and Soft Edges : CHECK LIST**** Great Balls of Fire *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty

Record Rack

August 28, 1988|RICHARD CROMELIN

*** 1/2JANE'S ADDICTION. "Nothing's Shocking." Warner Bros.

Life is tough. Everybody is so full of it. Might as well crank things up to a head-rattling, Zeppelin-in-overdrive pitch and get it out of our systems.

Life is also odd and interesting. Better take time to cool it and lay back and trip out and roll a few things over in the old mind.

Those are the two operative modes on the debut album from Jane's Addiction, the latest band to attempt the transition from big deal on the L.A. underground rock scene to big deal on the cosmos' rock scene. Shrugging off whatever pressures apply, the foursome sounds supremely assured as it alternates its taut, brutal metal alloy with oddly endearing moments of reflection.

Jane's brand isn't the craven, button-down metal that sells in the late '80s, but a bracing throwback to rebellious sources and forces of excess like old Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, where there's a melodic touch and the rhythm section bounces and swings with no loss of power and the guitarist is assigned to go crazy and seek glory. David Navarro is up to it, from his grime-scraping ground chords to his frantic flights, and it's all so energized that it's constantly threatening to unravel into pure psychedelia.

If that was it, "Jane's Addiction" would be a memorable jolt, but there's also that softer side, where the beats get complex and syncopated and the intensity lessens and voices split and fade and pulsate in the ozone.

And most important, there's singer Perry Farrell, who supplies the snotty-but-nice attitude that fuels the whole raging thing. Like Thelonious Monster's Bob Forrest, the Hollywood urchin transfigures personal pain into compelling rock 'n' roll--most impressively in "Had a Dad," where abandonment engenders chaos.

His willingness to lay it all out and damn the consequences leads to some misfirings--that \o7 sex is vi-yolent \f7 refrain just gets silly, and the Jim Morrison Jr. psychodrama on "Pigs in Zen" is best left to the live show. It rings all the more false next to something like "Jane Says," where the burbling musical currents sweeten the sad, deftly drawn portrait of Jane the junkie--like the band that's her namesake, one more misfit with some surprises up her sleeve.

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