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A Cabinet of Curiosities Janes Addiction

Rhino/Warner Brothers

The debut of the Lollapalooza Festival arrived at Blossom Music Center on August 5, 1991. The more than 18,000 Cleveland-area inhabitants of the Alternative Nation suddenly realized, after years of packing clubs and small halls, that there was a lot more of them in existence than they'd previously known. Earlier in the day, during Nine Inch Nails set, the inmates took over the asylum as security and ushers were not prepared for a bum rush from the lawn to the pavilion.

From here on in, there was a degree of tension in the air that was only exacerbated by Ice-T singing “ Cop Killer” with his metal act Body Count. When headliner Jane’s Addiction took the stage, the combination of full frontal assault and explosive tribalism reignited the crowd’s desire to make the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra one large mosh pit of frenetic dancing, body slamming and purging of life’s demons. For a band that split shortly after this date, the members held it together quite well musically. Frontman Perry Farrell was more the provocateur than the elder statesman/spiritual guru of today. He fanned the flames of the madness with an ongoing between-song banter blending God and sex; the most incendiary of which dealt with the Supreme Being coming down to the stage to service him. With shoes, bottles and shirts already being tossed around, a glow stick ended up perfectly (?) targeted; a direct hit on Farrell’s cheekbone. He fell down as if shot. Got up wobbly and exited stage left. Show over.

It was a time of celebration, danger and naivetNo one was directly attempting to change the world; only to ignore established practice and push their way for a piece of terrain to call their own. If the world shifted, so be it. The outsider status was more desirable anyway. That experience comes to mind as I listen to the third disc of Jane’s Addiction’s limited edition box set, A Cabinet Of Curiosities. It’s a complete live set from the December 19th, 1990 Hollywood Palladium show. It was the start of the tour that supported the group’s second studio effort, Ritual de lo Habitual and ran through September of 1991. Even without the heat, the sweat, the pushing and shoving among those in the pit, the furious gyrating to the propulsive combo of riffs and rhythms, I can still feel the power, presence and power of the band in its prime. Jane’s Addiction, a combustible engine that rolled through the music industry, unrepentant art punks, who thumbed their noses with anti-social behavior and controversial art. These Grateful Dead loving misfits incorporated the riffage of Led Zeppelin with muscular funk, punk aggression, metallic psychedelia and even a touch of jazz into their self-contained world, creating a catalog of songs that melded ferocity, depth, poetry, grit and grandeur.

Evidence of this last statement can be found on the demo-filled disc one of Cabinet. Other than enhanced production the material isn’t too dissimilar to the final product heard on the albums. While it may lead you to pause for a second in regards to dropping some dollars on this release, if you embraced the group the first time around and you need a musical release to blast against the cacophony of the 21st century, Jane’s still provides a perfect soundtrack to alienation and frustration. Mainly, I bring it up to point out how well-planned out Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery did things during their brief comet-like existence together.

Besides the 20 demos, the three-CD/one-DVD set compiles rarities and live performances and includes 30 unreleased tracks. It concentrates on the band’s early recorded output the peak era from its brief association with Triple X records in 1987 to major label releases, Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. A few surprises do pop up among the demos such as Farrell’s ode to his cat, “Maceo,” and “City,” both of which were revisited for the Kettle Whistle release and “Suffer Some,” which eventually came to life on the 2003 reunion (minus Avery) album, Strays.

While the initial numbers strike varying degrees of interest in their less produced forms, the rarities on disc two elicit much more significant contributions. The Sly Stone cover, “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey,” which was recorded with Ice-T and Ernie-C after the Rodney King verdict confronts race relations. (The musicians also played the song during several Lollapalooza dates in the summer of ’91.) Also contained here, the jittery speed freak 12 inch remix of “Been Caught Stealing,” the live “L.A. Medley” and its combination of the Doors (“L.A. Woman”), X (“Nausea”) and the Germs (“Lexicon Devil”). Surprisingly, the close-to-the-vest cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” comes off less inspired than the band’s contribution to the Grateful Dead tribute album, Deadicated. Like any successful cover tune, “Ripple” remains true to the spirit of the song while embracing the personality of the artist. Here, the band’s psychedelic influences shine as the song moves from its acoustic origins to a wavy, bouncy lysergic rhythm. The DVD brings back the homemade short form video, Soul Kiss, from out-of-print purgatory plus music videos and several songs from a live performance in Milan, Italy. With a rainbow clash of colors hair and clothing mano a mano kissing sessions, and onstage action, it unintentionally represents a complete picture of the band. To some, it’s nothing but shocking. To others, it’s free expression attached to a monster beat.

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