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From Jane’s Addiction to Perry’s Indulgence
A Spin article on Motley Crue a few years back captured, for me, what Jane’s Addiction was all about. Amid the painfully detailed excesses of a stupid and pointless band came an accidental epiphany, as Crue drummer Tommy Lee urged everyone to watch a coprophilic porn video. “Just in search of a rush, man,” he shrugged. I thought of the haunting, cataclysmic Jane’s song “Ted, Just Admit It”:
Camera got them images
Camera got them all
At their best, Jane’s Addiction was the sound of nerves gone dry, glands hardened, minds overwhelmed–the sound, all impotence and futility, of the withering of even decadence. The music–again, at its best–was a writhing, scary homage to Zeppelin’s heavy-light sonic chiaroscuro: Dave Navarro’s sometimes gentle, sometimes ruthless guitars, Perry Farrell’s piercing, electronically altered voice moaning, crying, dissecting, harping.
Showed me everybody
Naked and disfigured
Farrell–because of the pressures of fame, drugs, whatever–broke up the band shortly after they headlined the first Lollapalooza. Two years on, he’s back with a crudely named Jane’s wannabe outfit called Porno for Pyros. Over three albums Jane’s Addiction recorded a lot of powerful rock ‘n’ roll, but nothing like a pop song: the band, said Farrell, was an art project, and it was a good one. Porno for Pyros, by contrast, is just another rock band. The new guitarist, Peter DiStefano, is no Navarro, though he certainly tries; Jane’s drummer Stephen Perkins delivers the propulsive explosions that Farrell craves. But the sick but undeniable authority of Jane’s, with the leathered and dreadlocked Farrell wincing off the pain in pursuit of some horrific moment, is absent. Instead, Farrell repeats himself, with none of the drama. Porno for Pyros’s title song is about people who get off on violence–“Came four times / Could not leave myself alone.” We’ve heard that before. Elsewhere, Farrell indulges in cheap sardonicism (he makes fun of old bald guys on “Cursed Male”) and flaunts his countercultural credentials on songs like “Black Girlfriend” and “Orgasm.” Bohos have great sex, don’t you wish you were one? Only on one song do he and his new partners conjure up a gem: on the kaleidoscope of sound and meaning called “Pets” they lull us with a dreamy, hallucinatory musicality as Farrell intones a singsongy parable of an alien invasion, punishment for our sins. “We’ll make great pets,” he warbles. Otherwise, he’s strident and, worse, uninteresting. In a recent Rolling Stone, the band is interviewed to almost no effect: highlights of the session involve Farrell’s repeatedly falling asleep. At first I was kind of surprised, but then I remembered that the story of a self-absorbed star who breaks up a good band to be more self-indulgent with a pliable new set of mates is an old tale indeed. I wasn’t shocked at all.
When we last checked in with Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, the blithe threesome was on its way to San Francisco, having pulled up stakes in New Hampshire to make a new life out west. The group is a very literate folk novelty outfit whose original instrumentation–ukulele, violin, and bongos–disguised often serious (if invariably off-kilter) songwriting skills. The group released two quite engaging records on Flying Fish–the somewhat mournful More Bad Times, the slightly more upbeat It’s All Good News–but now it’s without a label. To tide over fans, Adam Jacobs’s Evanston-based Dead Bird Records has put out a genuine Ed’s souvenir: a four-song EP, titled Dead World Record, that features the group’s original lineup with Dom Leone, who died of cancer in 1989. On it can be heard sprightly versions of ERQ faves “Coriander Eyes,” “Minor League Pain,” “Lawyers and Truckers,” and “Balloon.” The band now includes ukulele-ist Dan Leone (Dom’s cousin) and violinist Carrie Bradley, along with a new member, Jonah Winter, who plays clarinet, accordion, and mandolin and replaces Nino Perrotta, who played bongos in the old lineup. They play Elbo Room Sunday night with Example: None. The show starts at 8 and costs $4. Call 549-7700….The Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra will make its first appearance in Chicago in July; a somewhat reduced, seven-piece edition of the elegant outfit–which performs gorgeous renditions of Escovedo tunes and some amazing covers (like the Stones’ “Sway” or Ian Hunter’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother”) in regular dates in Austin, Texas–will perform July 16 at FitzGerald’s and July 17 at the Sheffield Garden Walk….WTTW’s hour-long edits of the Center Stage series–the Soundstage-like music show that’s been taping in Chicago over the past six months or so–begin airing Monday, June 14, at 9 PM on Channel 11. The series is a unique joint venture between the public television station and MTV sister outlet VH-1; half-hour-long versions of the shows have been airing regularly on VH-1, but these have been hard to catch because of the cable station’s truncated hours locally. (And with commercials they’re actually only a bit longer than 20 minutes.) The ‘TTW versions, which include interview footage a la the original Soundstage, begin Monday with Michael Bolton, really get going with an over-the-top performance by Lindsey Buckingham June 21 and a slightly soporific one by Neil Young June 28, and continue with Wynonna Judd July 5, Aaron Neville July 12, Keith Richards July 19, and Bruce Hornsby August 2. Shows featuring K.D. Lang and Gloria Estefan will air during the station’s fund-raising appeals in August. Each show repeats the following Friday at 11 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alastair Thain.