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Music  |  Reviews

Jane’s Addiction: A Cabinet of Curiosities

[Rhino]

May 13, 2009  |  10:43am
Jane&#8217;s Addiction: <em>A Cabinet of Curiosities</em>

Gorgeously packaged and well-named, this box is packed with collectibles for the diehard but few gems for the uninitiated.


With their reunion tour in full swing, a proper celebration of Jane’s Addiction is due. Seething courageously in the murky brackish where goth, metal, funk, punk and prog flowed into the mainstream via the ’90s’ “alternative” revolution, Jane’s Addiction were visionary shamans whose initial run was ultimately undone by their own freakish unpredictability. While the band’s reach can never fully be calculated, the dual fires of Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual clearly still smolder in the hills of modern music’s collective psyche.

At moments, A Cabinet of Curiosities captures this primal essence. The lurid voodoo-shop packaging, tarot cards and deft use of the band’s graphic motifs is a great house for the collection, while the scattershot of rare covers ranging from “Bobhaus” (the lyrics to Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” sung over Bauhaus’ “Burning from the Inside”) to Grateful Dead and Iggy Pop songs outlines the crazed sprawl of Jane’s’ addictions. Still, Perry Farrell and Co.’s definitive statements were their official albums, and having already dredged through the outtakes with Kettle Whistle, much of what’s left here really is more a collection of curiosities than an end in itself.


Composed primarily of unreleased demos, the set’s first two discs tend to feature rattier versions of the songs on Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual. The most interesting of these are early Radio Tokyo sessions which most notably include a sparse but chilling version of “Jane Says” that grinds the knowing fatalism of its lyrics into stark relief. Unfortunately, it may be one of the only early outtakes that bears repeated listening. Throwaway cuts like “Maceo” and a surprisingly finesse-free version of Sly Stone’s “Don’t Call Me Nigger Whitey” with Ice-T are aural scribblings best sampled, noted and put back in the drawer. On most of these demos, Farrell’s voice is a sandpaper whine and lacks much of its later howling elasticity, and the band’s roar seems muted. But even in this ragged form, the songs remain stunning. “Three Days” might well be Alternative Nation’s “A Love Supreme,” and to add irony to brilliance, the band snuck it across the goal-line on the back of a catchy song about shoplifting.


This brand of subversive charm is partially showcased by the inclusion of a live Hollywood Palladium show from 1990, where Perry Farrell claims to be tripping on acid, chides a Birkenstock-throwing audience member about his fashion sense and generally comes across as a friendly kind of dangerous. While the set list is a stone-cold killer, the performance is more workmanlike than revelatory. A more intuitively edited dose of the band’s live energy surfaces on Cabinet’s DVD which includes, among other things, the “Mountain Song” video, which was banned by MTV (presumably for passing nudity), and three tracks from an MTV Italy performance. Clocking in at just under an hour (and slightly sullied by extra goofy video footage including, inexplicably, Dave Navarro beating the tar out of his pet eel), the DVD fits the set’s overall vibe. For diehard fans, the material collected here offers a few new looks at the band and operates as a sort of anthropological backdrop for its weightier classic albums. For anyone more casual, it’s a lovely looking overdose of an essential band’s inessentials.


Listen to Jane's Addiction's "Three Days" from A Cabinet of Curiosities:


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