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Last June, during Jane's Addiction's induction into the Guitar Center's RockWalk in Hollywood, guitarist Tom Morello made his case: "Nirvana often gets credit for being the first 'alternative' band to break through, the band that changed music and led rock out of the hair metal wilderness of the '80s. That's just not true. It was Jane's Addiction: inspiring, intelligent, furiously rocking and artistically deep."
He's got a point: Nothing's Shocking, the band's major-label debut, was issued in August of 1988, and their follow-up, Ritual De Lo Habitual, came out a year later - the latter beating Nevermind by 13 months.
While Nirvana grabbed the modern-rock playlist crown, Jane's Addiction embraced the fringe, the outer regions of the alt-rock parade. And though they sputtered and spattered during much of the ensuing decades, the hope remained high that the band would return in full flight with a wham-bam album worthy of being mentioned in the same breath of their first two releases.
The Great Escape Artist comes damn close. Despite some hiccups along the way (bassist Eric Avery, who rejoined the band in 2009, quit again a year later; and Duff McKagan, who joined soon after, tendered his resignation within six months), Jane's Addiction - singer Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins - have made a big blazing fire with their fourth studio album and first in eight years.
After McKagan (who contributed to three songs here) bolted, Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio came on board to lend a hand, along with former band member Chris Chaney. They join producer Rich Costey, whose past work includes Muse and Interpol, in forming a hazy yet crucial fourth of the Jane's Addiction picture.
And let's give it up to technology, too, as in old school: The band tracked The Great Escape Artist on the same console that they used to record their first two albums. Sometimes there's magic in those wires, some strange voodoo. Whatever the case, Jane's have found it here.
Full-frontal guitar rock, electronic textures and shaman eroticism might make strange bedfellows in most people's worlds, but for Jane's Addiction, they weave an intriguing and captivating web. The 10 tracks on The Great Escape Artist - that's right, 10, the band doesn't wear out the welcome - slam and swirl like a Big Wednesday surf. The group's sound is hard, expansive, reverential yet forward-thinking. This is a band with quite a past and a limitless future. That they've managed to put the two perspectives together on one record is reason to rejoice.