Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I am pointy nose

Spent the afternoon feeling a bit 'dated' on my drive home. Listening to Jane's Addiction will do that to you.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jane's. Saw Lollapalooza 1, marvelled at their stunt performance of "Trip Away" on Igloo Ice Chests, and like any true fan avoided their abominable second go 'round with last year's "Strays" like it was covered in fire ants. I'm sure that CD had its merits, but DAMMIT, if there was a band that could be put into a rotting Frigidaire and buried in the earth for 100 years and then dug up to answer the question "What did Los Angeles sound like in 1991," Jane's Addiction are your androgynous, goth 'n Roses leading men.

Yes Nirvana, yes Pearl Jam, yes Smashing Pumpkins, yes to all of your carnival of delights that could go in their place, but those bands, in a lot of ways, still hold up. Sure, "Ten" is drowning in approximately 72 tons of reverb over every lovin' note (or so I've been told--I just know it sounds murky and muddy as a Seattle March), but it's still basically a *rock* record, and what's now a 'classic' one at that. "Nevermind," for all the changes it wrought (good and bad [mostly bad]) in mainstream music, is still an amazing rock record that will stand the test of time for as long as critics can flog the legacy of Kurt Cobain until his corpse dances the "Macarena" in Hot Topic. Smashing Pumpkins...well, frankly, they're just not as good as the other two, and those among you who think they deserve to be time-capsuled ahead of the aforementioned bands should seek solace in some empty Chicago pub. Being that wrong deserves a stiff drink.

But Jane's, for my money, as someone who was in and around LA in those heady days I can vouch for the fact that was the soundtrack of pre-Riot Los Angeles. Melrose Avenue. Pre-white elephant Hollywood & Highland. Venice. Koreatown. They all fell under the umbrella of Jane's, with Perry's shrill, multi-tracked, effects-mangled voice soaring above us all. What was he singing about? Half the time it now sounds like addled junkie-poet nonsense but you know what? It was our nonsense. "Now they parade around in New York with a baby boy/he's gorgeous./Ain't nobody leavin'. " "My girl she's one too/she's gonna get a skirt/stick it in her shirt." "I am a proud man anyway/covered now by three days."

It really is a sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face.

Does it hold up now? Of course not, do the Grateful Dead? Jefferson Airplane? But, Jane's captures all the fucked-up, confusing, misguided mix of idealism, nihilism and hippie-dippie philosophy that we were all soaking in as part of the grand Gen X experiment. Give me heavy metal guitars and sensitive talk of a Classic Girl. Give me talk about your "sex and your drugs and your rock 'n roll," because, frankly, they're the only thing keeping us here too.

Naturally they blew apart, just like all or most of our so-called 'slacker' idealism, farted away in a gust of 9/11 and George W.'s Crayola-stated America. We Lollapaloozans are still around, but not quite sure what happened, and, I think, for the most part not too happy with what W's selling. But we're right inbetween. Too old to be interviewed or courted as the bright-eyed, neo-neo-con college vote (the group who views Janes and the above bands as quaint relics from their older brother's record collection, ripe for harvesting in 8 years or so when they want to play generational dress-up), and still too young to be in charge, we sit and just take it. We're repulsed by the process and not buying what's happening, but no one's asking us. Canada sounds good, but no one really wants to go where the cold is. Running for office could help, but see the above 'process revulsion' comment. We're stuck in the middle, defined by not having really much to complain about yet finding plenty to complain about regardless.

The Jane's reunion didn't have a prayer. They were supposed to flame out just as they did--spectacularly, in a haze of drugs and animosity, leaving behind a mere 3 records worth of deranged half-brilliant meanderings. They had the courtesy to drop out before they sucked--then came back 10 years later just to remind us why they quit in the first place. There was no Lollatopia to dream of any longer, just glam fashions and nu-metal guitar riffs to harvest until, finally, they quit a second time, scattering Navarro into a reality TV punchline, Perry into a DJ huckster, a Timothy Leary without a following, and Perkins to just keep playing with whomever picked up the phone (Mike Watt, Nels Cline, etc). Avery won't get mentioned because he had the courtesy to stay away from the other three lunatics the second time around.

So now Jane's is gone for good (maybe) and their true swan song, Ritual de lo Habitual, which is what spawned these thoughts today, is among all that's left. It's loud, jagged, crazy, quite a bit silly, and as bright and poisionous as a sunny day outside Bleeker Bob's on Melrose, where you were just as weird as the guy in the striped tights and the girl in purple dreads. It takes you back, but not all the way. If you listen you can almost make out, back there in the last bits of effects-pedal majesty and reverbed wonder, the sound of a band that was brilliant enough to quit, and an audience that wasn't smart enough pick up where they left off.

It ain't no wrong, it ain't no right.


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