photo & text by nacrowe
its difficult to verbalize how mind-altering and identity-shifting this JANE'S ADDICTION record was for me when i first heard it as a MIDDLE SCHOOL student living in NIGERIA. NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) is an absolutely classic record by a seminal band. in my heart the only bands that match them are DEVO and THE SMITHS: that is my holy trinity.
often credited along with FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE (among many others) with trailblazing in the late 1980s what would become the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene, JANE'S ADDICTION had an eclectic sound that ranged from GOTH ROCK and POST-PUNK to HARDCORE and even THRASH METAL. for me the music begins and stops with the mantra-like, hypnotic, circular and criminally underrated bass grooves of ERIC AVERY. these grooves on tracks like "SUMMERTIME ROLLS," "MOUNTAIN SONG," and "UP THE BEACH" are eerily reminiscent of AFROBEAT to me, which is the context i first heard them in, and provide the foundation for the rest of the band.
JANE'S ADDICTION is an example of a band where all the sum of all the parts is much greater than each individual member. in fact, there have been so many side and splinter groups (PORNO FOR PYROS, POLAR BEAR, SATELLITE PARTY, DECONSTRUCTION, THE PANIC CHANNEL, BANYAN and countless solo projects) of varying combinations of members that it really makes listening to NOTHING'S SHOCKING and its follow up RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) that much more intriguing. there really is an alchemical reaction going on there that hasnt been touched since.
what drew me initially was the voice of the shamanistic PERRY FARRELL, who i thought sounded like an alien. i literally couldn't place in my mind when first fearing "UP THE BEACH" whether it was a woman or man singing. his voice was beyond gender and seemingly sonically beyond space and time or any other human construct. i think lyrically there is a distinctly romantic worldview and sense of childlike amorality throughout his lyrics. in songs like "JANE SAYS" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" there is a sense of escapism through romantic love and being in the moment. that this deeper bond is what sets us free and makes us human. HENRY ROLLINS once made a prescient point about the band when he stated that "they pointed it out without pointing to it," which i implicitly agree with. lyrically NOTHING'S SHOCKING covers a lot of ground from the manipulating potential of mass media ("TED JUST ADMIT IT...") to the quiet banalities of daily life ("STANDING IN THE SHOWER...THINKING"). it all adds up to an emotional and intellectual range that is rarely witnissed historically in rock music of any age.
while i contend that the bass grooves of AVERY and the lyricism, mystique and vocal idiosyncrasies of FARRELL are the two main ingredients for this band, i would be remiss to not mention the stellar rhythm section of DAVE NAVARRO and STEPHEN PERKINS. i should start by saying that i am biased in this regard since NAVARRO along with JOHNNY MARR are my two favorite guitarists ever. NAVARRO is both an acolyte of the songwriting and lyrical guitar playing of 70s classic rock musicians like JIMMY PAGE and DAVID GILMOUR, as well as deeply indebted to the sonic experimentation of 80s POST PUNK musicians like ROBERT SMITH and DANIEL ASH among others. with this knowledge it is deeply interesting to see the interplay of those influences throughout his career, which finds him using everything from e-bows, delay effects and even dildos to create a lush sonic landscapes while also creating crushing riffs that any self respecting CLASSIC ROCK musician would enjoy. in essence, when i think of the sound of ALTERNATIVE ROCK, i think of that interplay within the guitar work of NAVARRO.
i think the drumming of PERKINS is criminally underrated but vastly essential the the group's success on NOTHING'S SHOCKING. from his signature use of steel drums on "JANE SAYS" to his pounding, kinetic METAL inspired pummeling on "MOUNTAIN SONG" "PIGS IN ZEN" and "OCEAN SIZE," there is a range at play that makes everything appear cohesive and ultimately authentic, no matter the genre being utilized at any moment. tribal drumming is now considered a cliche that has been adopted (and abused) by the METAL scene, but i would also credit PERKINS and his love of AFRICAN polyrhtms for help create such intoxicating, mantra-like textures in songs like "UP THE BEACH" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" and basically the second side of RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL.
easily one of my all-time favorite records that i clearly know i am not doing justice. suffice to say it is worth checking out as it is one of the most transcendently great rock albums of all-time.