That Old Black Magic

Farrell & co are back with a vengeance

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Fittingly enough for a band who, for many, embody musical occultism, this is Jane’s Addiction’s first studio album in 13 years. When they imploded in ’91, fans liked to believe that frontman Perry Farrell broke up the band?just as they’d cracked the mainstream with their landmark third opus Ritual De Lo Habitual?to preserve Jane’s iconic status. No one wanted to concede that the otherworldly aspects of Jane’s music were an elegant foil to the real-life drug habits that zapped the band’s energies and brought a premature close to the creative partnership between Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro.

Since then, the pair have flexed their individual talents with vigour. Farrell reinvented himself as Porno For Pyros firestarter and Lollapalooza lynchpin, while Navarro spent four years in the ranks of the Chili Peppers. Two years ago the pair unconsciously mirrored each other with similarly ill-conceived solo albums (Farrell’s Song Yet To Be Sung and Navarro’s Trust No One). But the legacy of their one-time partnership proved too great to ignore, and Jane’s Addiction reconvened. They’ve rarely fallen from fashion, though now even the likes of Fred Durst cite them as an influence.

Farrell’s contrary, radical, fighting spirit comes to fruition on Strays. From the first blistering bars of “True Nature”, Jane’s Addiction display an all-cylinders-firing ferocity. Bob Ezrin?the legend behind Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, Lou Reed’s Berlin and Pink Floyd’s The Wall?is producer, but doesn’t self-parody by encouraging the baroque complexities (such as “3 Days”) that graced previous albums. In their place is a solid, melodic, alt.rock sound that puts the band in the ballpark with the Chili Peppers and Audioslave. They don’t always get it right: the rap-metal bounce of “Superhero” is a little too radio-friendly for comfort. But when they do, the results are mind-blowing. The exceptional “Wrong Girl” confirms that Farrell’s reptilian rasp is as skin-crawling as ever, while the single, “Just Because”, sees Navarro’s siren-aping guitar sound spin off the plastic. It’s a fresh yet classic sound that’ll please hardcore fans and newcomers alike.

Nothing too shocking, then, but their old magic surges through: you won’t be disappointed.

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