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The Great Escape Artist
Jane's Addiction The Great Escape Artist
Released 18 October 2011
Producer Rich Costey
Label Capitol
Length 39:54
Genre Alternative rock
Website www.janesaddiction.com

It all looked so promising at one stage, the near twenty year old rift had been repaired and Eric Avery was back playing bass with Jane’s Addiction, something he hadn’t done since the particularly nasty first break-up of the band in 1991. Bass players don’t tend to get the same respect as lead guitarists or singers but a quick listen to songs like 'Three Days', 'Mountain Song' or 'Ain’t No Right' and you’ll quickly understand the importance Avery had on the Jane’s Addiction sound and why pretty much every Jane’s fan was eager to hear new material from the original line up. However in true Jane’s style the ceasefire didn’t last long enough and after a bout of touring Avery had left the band again. After an even briefer stint with Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver), Jane’s Addiction turned to TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek to assume bass playing duties on their fourth studio album, The Great Escape Artist.

The papier-mâché scene on the album cover mirrors that of Ritual de lo Habitual, the lyric, "God is a Dad" from 'Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)' is an obvious reference to 'Had a Dad' from Nothing’s Shocking. It’s clear that Farrell is trying to make that emotional connection to their two masterpieces but sound wise this album has more in common with Strays; the songs are more structured with a richer, tighter sound soaked in synth created ambiance.

The drawback is that, like StraysThe Great Escape Artist is missing that unpredictable, manic element that made their predecessors such great albums. Farrell no longer shrieks like a man possessed, excessive partying and pushing his vocals to the limit has decreased his range, a point backed up by the fact that when playing live Jane’s now play tuned down. Sitek's role is played down; his bass lines are generally workmanlike if a tad forgettable and tend to get lost in the overall mix. Steve Perkins and Dave Navarro are also strangely subdued on this album, perhaps the general ambiance of the tracks required a more controlled contribution from both men but you can’t help but wish for them to cut loose from time to time. The only time you really feel the full Jane’s Addiction energy in effect is for album closer 'Words Right Out of My Mouth'.

This may all seem quite negative but it’s the musical form of tough love. The truth is I do like this album, it’s definitely not the car crash it could have been. Farrell’s uncanny ability of infusing the bleakest of situations with a glimmer of hope leads to two cracking songs, namely 'Twisted Tales' and 'Broken People'. Add to the mix the defiant attitude of 'I’ll Hit You Back' and the epic vision of 'Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)' and you have an album that kicks the ass of so many wannabe modern day rockers. Even at fifty-two Farrell can still rock harder than most.

Though it doesn’t have quite the same genius and magic of its predecessors it is still a meaningful release from one of the most eclectic and electric bands around. To put things in perspective, Jane’s Addiction formed in 1984 and nearly thirty years on they are finally getting around to releasing their fourth studio album. It might not be a five star album but it doesn’t mess with the bands legacy and I would imagine most fans would be willing to look past some of its shortcomings just to have some new material to listen to before they finally call it a day for good.

- Brian Kinsella