[sic] Magazine

Janes Addiction – A Cabinet of Curiosities

‘A Cabinet of Curiosities’ is, I suppose, what 1997’s ‘Kettle Whistle’ should always have been. Warner Brothers strangled their golden goose that year by forcing with impatience a hybrid of live material and new recordings to a wholly unsatisfying result. This, meanwhile, is the definitive Jane’s Addiction rarities collection. Whilst all the material here has been circulated in traded cassettes and bootleg CD’s for two decades, what a fabulous joy it is to finally hear these recordings in the best quality they can ever be.

Jane’s were one of the best bands in history. They combined weird, disparate influences raging from Mingus and X to Joy Division and Funkadelic, and somehow, made it all work in a place that no one could really imagine until it all coalesced in a beautiful and weird result that really no one has imagined until the chords were stuck and the drums were pounded. If this music were a mathematical equation it would be a bizarre and false result that would be marked F by a teacher.

The Bumblebee can’t fly. This stuff shouldn’t sound amazing. But it does.

The combination of jazz influences and traditional rock sees a band that can adeptly switch between styles and rhythms in a fraction of a second. To some ears these songs may sound like a Photo-fit of music, but when the elements combine, a chemical reaction far beyond the sum of the parts occur. Added to this, Perry Farrell’s otherworldly – and heavily processed – vocals become a lead instrument, shot through effects pedals and boxes as if they were guitars. The lyrics themselves read as superior poetry, inspirational, reaching, and oddly gifted.

During the initial 5-year phase, Jane’s reached for the stars, scraped them, and exploded under the pressure. The combination of elements was explosive: like fire can burn and heat, Jane’s soared, and burnt their wings in the sun. Every one of their well-known songs is here (in alternate versions), as well as many rarities.

Discs 1 and 2 capture demos and alternate studio recordings of most of the band’s canon: embryonic demos, alternate takes, unreleased versions, rare remixes, random cover versions and a selection of very old live stuff are all presented in near chronological order to provide an underlying narrative, a secret history of Jane’s Addiction.

CD3 is the true treat: a much-bootlegged recording of the final tour in Hollywood is presented at last in its entirety and with a stunning clarity. The definitive live document from the band demonstrates clearly that whilst the records were just that: records, the true conversion came from seeing Jane’s living and breathing in front of your eyes. Yes, a huge work of architecture, a cathedral, may look impressive. But wait until you see it with your own eyes. The awe. The majesty, the power. And the feelings of the concert here – the sense of communion and elevation, as thousands of hands sweetly climb around you all grasping for a release from an imperfect world and every voice chants ‘All of Us With Wings!’ whilst the musicians whip up a barrage of transcendiary music. Make no mistake about it, this third CD is the long-awaited live document that – even its clarity and perfection – is still just a record of a night in the life of this great band whose shows were amongst the best I ever saw.

The final disc is a DVD: sadly, this is rather incomplete, capturing the ‘Soul Kiss’ home video, some videos, and a handful of live songs from Milan. It is an unsatisfactory experience – as only three songs from Milan are included from an hours TV broadcast, and only a fraction of the Hollywood show released on CD is included. Not only that, but Perry Farrell’s long-overlooked film ‘The Gift’, which features many recordings by the band, is not included, presumably lost in Rights Hell.

And the whole story of this box set grinds to a halt in 1991 when the original line up of the group imploded on tour. After this the band reformed twice and released two further albums: neither of which are included in this box set, which ultimately leaves the story only half told. But the story as it is, is glorious and one worth exploring. I missed them, and I for one, am overjoyed that this material is rescued from obscurity to return to our ears and heard again.

Overall, the three CD’s are essential listening for fans of the band. The DVD is a nice, but unsatisfactory and incomplete collection. The box set is by no means the definitive starting place for the band, but as far as compilations and re-releases go, it is an immaculate companion, compiled with respect for the work, the band, the time, and most of us, for the listener. A gift from the gods.

Janes Addiction official website

For more from Mark please visit The Mark Reed website