As film buffs await the newest from Kubrick and lit buffs the latest from Mailer, certain underground-rock fans look forward to a new release from Jane's Addiction--one of the very few groups capable of recording the Great American Album. And just as surely are they disappointed when it falls short. After all, it's the very unapproachability of the Big One that makes it such a tantalizing ideal. And Jane's, who toy artily with the boundaries of rock but also play riffs Jimmy Page would have given his whammy bar to have written, somehow record very good albums while they try. They mean it, man.
So where Stephen Perkins may be the most powerful, rhythmically inventive drummer in rock 'n' roll, he was completely buried in the mix on Jane's' debut, "Nothing's Shocking." The lyrics tended toward the druggy stream-of-consciousness and the song structures tended toward anarchy. It was still one of the best albums of the '80s.
"Ritual" is if anything more incoherent, scenes from the inner life of a mixed-up kid--singer Perry Farrell. It rambles, it's murky, it features a long, vaguely Oriental violin solo. But "Ritual" is also oddly compelling, sort of an art-rock tour de force, and some of the sing-song melodies and images in the lyrics--Farrell's brother making him slap himself in the face, a girl shoplifting a razor by sticking it under her skirt--stick with you for far longer than you think they should. Plus, "Three Days" has the longest crescendo in rock history.