What a way to go. When I first listened to Jane’s Addiction, I was eleven. I knew so little about the world, I am surprised my head didn’t explode the moment my fish died and I realized it was never coming back. I heard Jane Says on the radio, an acoustic little rendition of what seemed to sound like a classic country/folk song. My mother agreed and bought Nothing’s Shocking. To this day, I still find it odd that she thought it was a nice acoustic rock record despite having two naked girls on the cover with their hair on fire.
Regardless, Jane’s Addiction sounded as if from another planet. Up the Beach sounded evil- sinister- something booming from my twelve-inch boombox like from the pits of another planet. Had a Dad contained this eerie guitarwork and this raspy growl from frontman Perry Farrell that sounded otherworldly.
The one-two-three punch of that song preceded by Ocean Size and Up the Beach has always stuck in my mind. And though I now realize that Jane’s Addiction are quite tame in the whole scheme of things, these early memories of being chilled by music still stuck to me strong. So it is difficult to be put in a position of taking a critical look at an album that made such a strong impression on my past. It is like reviewing Child’s Play. It scared the shit out of me when I was nine, but it’s just a stupidly stupid movie.
I am not going to admit that Nothing’s Shocking, the group’s grand big middle-finger to the world, is stupid. It’s actually brilliant. I still believe it helped give 90′s grunge an in-road to mainstream success, and Jane’s Addiction are not respected enough by providing the outlet for Nirvana and Soundgarden to craft their careers.
Some songs hold up incredibly well. Take Ted…Just Admit It for example. It’s a druggie-infused spiral down the mind of a crazed psychotic. It’s also a blast to listen to. Idiots Rule has this big energy to it that sounds more like Sly and the Family Stone than anything grunge-like, and it always remained an intriguing spot to sit back and just enjoy the sounds.
Some songs are marred by a drooling slowness that destroys the pacing of the record, notably the sour Summertime Rolls which needed to be discluded from any future pressings. By the time Pigs in Zen comes around, most have lost any attention. Mountain Song has that huge bass lick that is just incredible, and it makes the song. There is a reason it remains a fan favorite aside from its overt popularity.
Nothing’s Shocking stands the test of time, but barely. It has enough ideas which were a breath of fresh air at the time. They were the ugly stepbrothers to the asshole older brother Guns N Roses. They are also vastly superior, but that is another story. Jane’s Addiction always carved their own path, and it made for a very sporadic trajectory. But their debut is a great example of great in memory, but upon revisitation, you can poke quite a few holes in the stagnant dated nature of the aesthetic.