Fifteen years ago, Jane's Addiction were the ultimate rock stars. Born out of the mid-80s post-punk scene in L.A., their 1987 eponymous debut and its 1988 follow-up, Nothing's Shocking, paved the way for their superstar status. In 1990, Ritual de lo Habitual earned them commercial success and secured their place at the dinner table of great rock musicians.
Amidst a sea of hair bands twice as popular and 10 times more temporary, Jane's Addiction kept afloat with a sound that couldn't quite be classified. Dave Navarro's painfully intense guitar gave politically-conscious frontman Perry Farrell just the right amount of authority to wail passionately about everything from racism to drugs to prostitution, all the while exuding a lust-for-life attitude unseen in their heavy metal counterparts.
Now, nearly 15 years after Jane's Addiction's debut, following stints with other bands for both artists (Navarro with The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Farrell with Porno for Pyros), the former band mates simultaneously embark on solo careers that take them on two very different rides. The resulting albums, released within less than a month of each other, show that common seeds don't always produce similar fruits.
Unlike Farrell, who has always been considered somewhat of a solo artist because of his flamboyant theatrics both on- and off-stage, Navarro is in a dangerous position. A guitar legend of his magnitude ditching a supporting cast in favor of going it alone sounds like a feasible recipe for disaster. Let's face it--a lone gaffe in the solo zone earns him a one-way ticket to "fat and embarrassing" on a VH1 special. Luckily, Navarro is armed.
Trust No One, NavarroOs first attempt at distancing himself from the bands that made him famous, is just enough audio ammunition to fend off the critics who label him as everything from a session musician to a one-trick pony. Navarro proves early and often his legitimacy as a solo artist, showing an emergent knack for singing and songwriting.
Stepping out of the Jane's Addiction/Chili Peppers shadow, an admittedly daunting task, proves elementary for Navarro, who adds to the alternative rock of old a new intensity, creating an amalgam of acoustic folk, metal, synthesizers and drum machine electronica.
While Trust No One is peppered with drum machines and synthesizers, on Farrell's Song Yet to be Sung, electronica is a meal in and of itself. Against a drum and bass background, Perry ditches his exuberant screech for more muted, chanting vocals that give the album an Eastern vibe. The combination is pleasant to the ear, but it is nothing new. It seems that while trying to take his music in a new direction, Farrell has fallen victim to the same cliches in electronica that he is trying to transcend in rock.
The CD opens and ends with "Birthday Jubilee," a song that exemplifies the album's celebratory nature. Unlike the melancholy air of fear and failure that seeps from Navarro's catalogue of self-doubt, Farrell has something joyful to sing about. Lyrics like "Come on, I'll hold you tight/ We'll sing and dance all night/ We're all so happy/ Happy for you" show that Perry just wants everyone to feel the love and have a good time.
Both Song Yet to be Sung and Trust No One reflect an attempt to incorporate the increasing dominance of electronic music in the artistsO styles. The result? Navarro creates a well-executed, if somewhat predictable perpetuation of the sex, drugs and rock n' roll vibe, while Farrell gives us a potpourri of trance, chants and big beats that fail to coalesce into any sort of identifiable style.
But since when has Perry worried himself with something as mundane as structure? After all, it's his party, and he'll rave if he wants to.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.