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Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

CD REVIEWS

July 12, 2001

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Perry Farrell

"Song Yet To Be Sung"

Dave Navarro

"Trust No One"

Two facts will probably smack listeners in the face when sampling the debut solo albums from Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro: 1) Jane's Addiction was one of the truly outstanding bands of the late '80s/early '90s. 2) It's not easy living in the shadow of greatness. Jane's Addiction was the most important band to rise from the ashes of the '80s Los Angeles metal scene, creating two brilliantly twisted, highly musical masterpieces ("Nothing's Shocking" and "Ritual De Lo Habitual") and helping to wipe hair bands from the face of the earth. Though Nirvana is often credited with that feat, it was actually JA that set the stage for Seattle's grunge explosion. Unfortunately, the L.A. act parted ways right after the inaugural Lollapalooza tour disintegrating in a sea of bad vibes, drug abuse and unchecked ego. The band members' post-Jane's projects have been mostly spotty, marginally interesting affairs that made fans feel more nostalgic than moved. These two new projects from JA's creative center continue in that vein, offering mere traces of their former glories. By now, Farrell's newfound fascination with electronica has been well-documented. Thus it's little surprise that his first solo effort is awash in computerized bleeps and bloops. But anytime Farrell opens his mouth to sing be it with his post-Jane's outfit Porno For Pyros or on his latest work one can't help but be reminded of the mighty JA. To some degree, that's a testament to the originality of Farrell's love-it-or-hate-it voice, which has the elusive quality of instant recognition that marks so many of rock's great frontmen. The opening track, "Happy Birthday Jubilee," has a Jane-influenced electro bassline and ocean-sized groove, a promising start that finds Farrell looking to the future while still acknowledging his past. The title track contains a swooning melody, tramping along to the sort of primal percussion that often brought JA's music to life. Neither of these tunes have the power the dramatic hugeness of Perry's former band but they're pretty good nonetheless, which is a sign that there's still some life in the 40-something singer. Unfortunately, things begin to go downhill soon after, with Farrell's songs blending together into a fairly unforgettable mishmash of artsy noise. What's really missing on Farrell's latest is Dave Navarro's guitar or anyone else's for that matter. Throughout "Song," the enigmatic vocalist relies on keyboards and driving electro-percussion to keep the music moving, a strategy that works on occasion but mostly fails. The bizarro circus march of "Admit 1" and the Tahitian mooning of "To Me" provide the only other bright spots on an otherwise inauspicious effort. Conversely, JA guitarist Dave Navarro invited a prestigious cast of alt-rock characters to his long-delayed solo project, including Pearl Jam alum Matt Chamberlain, Marilyn Manson sidekick Twiggy Ramirez and Jane's/Porno For Pyros stick twirler Stephen Perkins. Leaving most of his trademark guitar histrionics at home, Navarro concentrates on singing and songwriting on "Trust." That's not necessarily a bad thing: The world isn't exactly sitting on the edge of its seat in anticipation of a record full of guitar solos. On the other hand, Navarro doesn't sing or write nearly as compellingly as he plays the six-string. With no axes to grind musically, lyrically or even figuratively Navarro sinks into the murky waters of self-absorption, producing 10 songs that provoke almost no reaction. With sophomoronic lyrics like "There is no love left in your eyes/There is love between you thighs," you'd almost think you stumbled into the latest cringe-worthy piece of crap from Aerosmith. To his credit, Navarro isn't living on past glories here, opting to try his hand at creating something wholly new (for him). However, you'd think a guy who claims to sleep in a coffin would have something a little darker to offer. Instead, Navarro elects to play it safe, resulting in an album that has nothing to say on any level. It's not bad, it's just boring, which is one of the worst things you can say about any record. In that sense, Navarro's efforts are reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkin James Iha's forgettable 1998 solo shot: inoffensive but utterly unmoving. I'd trade both of these discs for just one song as good as "Had a Dad," "Whores" or "Three Days." Or "Ain't No Right." Or "Classic Girl." Or "Mountain Song." Or "Pigs in Zen." Or "Idiots Rule." Or...well, you get the point.

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