Five Years Ago: Jane’s Addiction Overcome Turmoil With ‘The Great Escape Artist’
Given their checkered history, it wasn't all too surprising that the atmosphere surrounding Jane’s Addiction before and during the recording their fifth album was fraught with tumult. The resulting work, The Great Escape Artist, somehow ended up benefiting from the upheaval though, and was released on Oct. 18, 2011.
Following a 17-year estrangement, bassist Eric Avery had returned to the Jane’s lineup in 2008, and toured with them throughout the following year before abruptly leaving again in early 2010, dashing hopes of any new material being recorded with the original members. Duff McKagan – then ex-Guns N’ Roses bassist – linked up with the band as they began working on music for a new album. Yet after just six months, he had had enough too.
Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio was enlisted to assist, and it very well could have been just what Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins needed, as The Great Escape Artist ended up being the strongest Jane’s Addiction album since Ritual de lo Habitual.
Opener “Underground” is classic Jane’s Addiction, with Farrell singing a cappella before the rest of the group joins in for a mix of punctuating guitar, in-and-out bass and almost-industrial background noise. Navarro is at his flamboyant best, consistently stealing the show at various moments, including a performance on “Twisted Tales” that echoes the Cure before turning into something downright futuristic and otherworldly.
Sitek’s influence crops up all over the place, most notably on the single “End to the Lies,” which not surprisingly has flashes of TV on the Radio's blips and dramatic sonic shifts while still retaining that familiar Jane’s sound.
Farrell’s vocals are in excellent form, wavering between laid-back and unrestrained, the strongest asset to the band, along with their ability to both sound like it was pulled from the annals of hard rock and completely modern. “Splash a Little Water on It” is a fine example; Navarro’s guitar playing sounds like it could’ve been conceived in the early '80s big-rock era, but contextualized in the song, it works perfectly.
A few of the songs McKagan helped write were left on the album, despite protests by other bandmembers to Farrell, though they were slotted deep into the second half. One of them, “Broken People,” is almost one of the finest recorded by the band; unfortunately, it feels unfinished, like it ends too soon.
There are missteps here and there, the skit-like entry into the barreling “Words Right out of My Mouth,” but for the most part, The Great Escape Artist is a solid effort that was a bit underrated upon its initial release. Hopefully, time is much kinder to it than it has been to 2003’s Strays, while having some standout moments, faltered in many spots, which the follow-up didn’t do nearly as much.
Jane's Addiction Albums Ranked Worst to Best