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Monday, April 16, 2007


Jane's Addiction - "Nothing's Shocking" (Warner Brothers, 1988) [key tracks: Jane Says, Ocean Size, Mountain Song]
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"I was made with a heart of stone, to be broken with one hard blow. I've seen the ocean break on the shore, come together with no harm done..."
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There was a time, less than a year ago, when if I had stepped in dog poop, I would have freaked out. Now, in April 2007, I'd say it happens on a weekly basis. Minimum. The apartment complex has slowly become pet friendly. This is good, because we have a dog (which helps my wife's loneliness problem and my laziness problem). This is bad, because the dirtballs that live in my complex just let their dogs crap wherever they want and don't scoop it up. Getting our own house will be an indescribable triumph on so many levels... And with that, Shock Week winds down to a close.
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Carl's Favorite Songs - #44 - No One Came by Deep Purple
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Jane's Addiction personified "shocking." Not only that, they were the enzyme that allowed alternative music to rise from obscurity to a household genre (for better and for worse). "Nothing's Shocking" was their first official LP (they had released an indy LP earlier, but many of the songs would appear again on their major label releases), and they were already a street level phenomena before it was release. By being signed to Warner Brothers, armies of indy bands suddenly had hope; Jane's Addiction led the way for a musical revolution. As you can tell by the cover, they are all about artistically challenging societal norms. That, and they liked drugs. Perry Farrel, the lead singer, used to dress very flamboyantly; adorned in make up, colorful jewelry, and feminine clothing (more than David Lee Roth's spandex and silk, Farrel wore corsets, hosiery, and so on). This (at the time) was very shocking indeed (even though we were used to seeing metal bands dress this way, it was odd to see a straight man in music proudly devoid of any machismo). Also shocking was their lifestyle; this was a time when tattoos and piercings were not common at all... people were still debating if a man should pierce his ear. Jane's Addiction led the way for every 20 something white girl to have pierced nipples, tongue rings, and lower back tattoos.
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On stage they were nothing short of combustible performance art. They weren't the scariest or most shocking live act around, but they were the scariest and most shocking major label live act around (unless you count the Chili Peppers and their sexual harassment lawsuit... the infamous socks on cocks meet teen girls case). Perry would often strip naked and prance around in a very Iggy Pop like fashion. Guitarist Dave Navarro would lay down some pretty heavy jams, utilizing the guitar to pump out some spacey sounds (and before Rage Against the Machine came along, he was the only one tripping out these sort of riffs). And of course the rhythm section of Eric Avery (bass) and Stephen Perkins (drums) were unmatched in the subculture from which Jane's Addiction rose. As artsy and new as their sound was, it was rooted in progressive metal and funk, with a taste of punk, but to a different percentage than contemporaries the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Part Led Zepplin, part Pink Floyd, part Stooges, and part Commodores (all meant as compliments) they were one of the tightest and most original of all the early "true" alternative bands.
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The album and band both deserve more than two paragraphs, so consider this a bonus. The album has some amazing tracks. My copy was an early pressing, so it is missing a song ("Pigs in Zen") that may be on all CD copies readily available today. I would venture to say of the 10 tracks on my LP, only 2 are forgettable... and they are the "Up the Beach" intro and the "Thank You Boys" outro. Between these are 8 perfect tracks. You probably have heard "Jane Says" on rock radio, if you listen to rock radio. It became an instant classic, only being nudged out of the limelight for "Been Caught Stealing"(which was on their next LP). If you were really into rock in the 1990's, "Mountain Song" probably popped up a lot in your audio travels. But a song that you need to hear, and one that has deceptively poignant lyrics, is "Ocean Size." The lyrics are a lovechild created by Farrel's love of surfing, and a Zen outlook on life. Their can be dichotomy between people, countries, religions... there can be difference, but they can coexist without clashing, without conflict. And change is within reach. This is the message of this song. I love it, and while I pretty much ignored Jane's Addiction when they were at their apex (I was mostly a metal head in those days), I still mangaed to listen to their stuff, and dug it. Now I look back on their 2 album career as amazing; "Nothing's Shocking" being the purer and better of the two (of course I am going to be partial, since the LP has guest appearances from Flea and 2 members of Fishbone). As is inevitable with all bands with this much creativity and originality, they imploded (alternative bands tend to either implode or sell out). Personalities clashed and they ceased to be cohesive or productive. So once they stirred the pot, invented Lollapallooza, unleashed an edgy lifestyle on the Midwest, and broke the glass ceiling for indy bands, they flung out in separate directions and handed the reigns over to bands like Nirvana and Radiohead to see what they could do with (or to) rock and roll. "Nothing's Shocking" is a perfect LP, and one that any modern rock fan needs to hear and cherish for it's high quality, uniqueness, and the ground breaking change it had on the music scene.
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And for the record, I am not a big fan of Farrel or Navarro. Both have done nothing since Jane's Addiction that in any way appeal to me, and Navarro has become something of a joke upon himself. Too bad, they were so good at the peak. And I am still a little bitter about the floodgate of pure drivel that invaded rock because of Jane's Addiction's success. The 1990's were more of a musical nadir than the 1980's if you ask me. To be completely honest, I think my biggest problem with Jane's Addiction was that they allowed everyone into my little club; they made indy music accessible to all. I realize that this is snobbery of the highest level, but a lot of emotion is invested in these bands that you follow and idolize, only to have some white trash CB queen with a copy of "Nevermind" tell you she loves alternative music. Yeah, that Nirvana disc is right next to Green Day, Eminem, Nickelback, and Korn. No thanks.
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One last item; in high school I was not exactly cool. Big surprise. But there was a girl in all my honor's classes that was pretty and cool. She was quiet and seemed not to run around with a lot of the normal posse of popular chicks. Something was different and attractive about her and I always sort of harbored a little crush on her. Her name was Emily. Anyway, Emily came to calculus one day with a Jane's Addiction t-shirt. They had just played Omaha in support of "Ritual de lo Habitual" (a coup for our musically bland concert scene). It was enough of an incentive for me to strike up a small conversation about the show. We were both surprised to find that each other liked "that sort of music." I talked to her a few more times over my senior year, and she wrote a very nice thing in my yearbook. This is what this sort of music is about; its a scene, and it brings people of like-mind together. When it works, its a great example to the world around to take notice. I haven't talked to Emily since graduation day (15 years ago now) but I hope she has found nothing but happiness, and I hope she still likes "that kind of music."
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Horns up.

1 comment:

Carlin said...

"Perry Farrel, the lead singer, used to dress very flamboyantly"

He still does, in my opinion. I saw him walking Red River St in Austin, during SXSW, with a pretty young thing on his arm. I recall a deep red velveteen vest being worn by him, with no shirt under. There are a lot of people on the streets, during that time, but he still stood out...walking art.