JANE'S ADDICTION, Ritual De Lo Habitual (WEA)
Melody Maker, August 1990
Jane's Addiction are "metal" in the same way that My Bloody
Valentine are "Sixties-influenced indiepop". It's approximately one
billionth of the story. To say that they "transcend the genre", is as miserly an understatement as describing Mary Margaret O'Hara as "an idiosyncratic but accomplished singer" or Prince as a "mixed-up narcissist."
Where 99.9% of 'metal' rocks out along a straight and
narrow axis, Jane's Addiction rock out in 360 degrees and
five dimensions.They don't kick ass so much as torch ass. There's a strange exultation that bursts the bounds of the 'material'.
Where the last album, "Nothing Shocking" only reached flashover
with "Up The Beach", "Ocean Size" and the one about pissing in the shower,
"Ritual De Lo Habitual" delivers on that incandescent promise about sevenfold.
It's strange that Jane's Addiction are such sleaze bags, so immured
in decadence and degradation, because their music is about as lofty,
cleansing, sublimated and sublime as rock'n'roll gets. Part of it is down to Perry Farrell's peculiarly ethereal presence. His voice is a fleshless, even
genderless peal of petulance, like a bad-ass Tinkerbell. Strictly speaking,
he can't sing - but that raises him a couple of infinities above
the beefcake competence of the Heavy Metal norm. Farrell sounds like a creature.
But what truly elevates Jane's Addiction is David Navarro's golden horde of guitars. Think of all the moments in metal that momentarily step outside the dim strictures and bawdy boorishness of the genre, passages and peaks when
the form achieves an abstract splendour. Jane's Addiction are like that all the way
through. Navarro's playing is as much to do with Television, with the iridescent spasms of "Marquee Moon", as with the more obvious Led Zep lineage. When Navarro solos it's like a geyser gushing electric eels. This is rock as the Tivoli fountain gardens, rock as the Rocky Mountains.
Ritual De Lo Habitual starts with "Stop" ("here we go!/Nowhere!"), which slips and slides between funk metal and lumbering cosmic boogie, bass like the solar system turning on its axis. And then it's pyrotechnics and prayers on fire all
the way. Jane's Addiction's only let up, their solitary lapse into levity, is the one minute snatch of Ian Dury's "Sex & Drugs", which they cover as deep, daft dub, Farrell essaying a Rasta accent. "Obvious", though, starts out as astral reggae for real, straying close to A.R. Kane territory. And "Been Caught Stealin'", by some uncanny and presumably innocent coincidence, hits upon a near- identical groove to Happy Mondays' "Wrote For Luck": it's funk undercarriage is almost baggy!
But the second side of Ritual is about as timeless and un-topical as you could hope for. "Three Days" is gloriously misguided choice for a single, lasting as it does a small eternity, going through about five drastic changes of course and covering all the ground between the Cocteau Twins and Blue Oyster Cult. "Then She" is an awesomely queer art-rock ballad draped with Beatles-ly strings, lachyrmose trickles of piano and quicksilver slivers of guitar. "Of Course" sustains the baroque, apocalyptic ambience with its piquant Arabic/Balkan fiddles. The closing "Classic Girl" is the album's solitary foray into unadulterated lyricism. But you're reluctant to let yourself swoon, as it's seems more than likely that something pretty rancid lurks beneath the romanticism.
Jane's Addiction are The Associates of heavy rock, and Ritual De Lo Habitual is their Sulk, a pinnacle of purple hysteria. Sheer alchemical intoxication. Ritual is as overloaded, over-reaching, injudicious and "pretentious" as rock should be in 1990. Words like "mellow", "good vibes" , "ordinary Joe" and "casual" do not figure in their vocabulary. The "ponceyness" * is back, with a vengeance. All hail.
* reference to interview in recent issue of MM with Madchester makeweights Paris Angels, in which one of the band opined that what was good about baggy was that "the ponceyness is gone, it's the ordinary Joe onstage again".