Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual: Round 41, Nick’s choice

c‘Discipline’. Another vague, tossed-off theme that caused me trouble. Not wanting to buy King Crimson’s 1981 album Discipline, and not being able to find the 2010 remaster of Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which includes the singles “Discipline” in the bonus material, I had to wrack my brains. Searching iTunes revealed no songs with the words ‘discipline’ or ‘punishment’ in the title. I half-heartedly flicked through CDs I’ve not uploaded. Nothing.

So my thoughts turned to disciplined bands. Maybe I could play something else by The Necks, or infamous straight-edgers Fugazi? But that didn’t seem right either. How about ill-disciplined bands? Surely few groups have exhibited less discipline with regards to any part of the aphorism “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” than LA’s notorious Jane’s Addiction? Pornography, hard drugs, and extravagant guitar solos. A song about being apprehended (and presumably punished) for shoplifting. And what’s ritual if not disciplined?

Side 1 of Ritual de lo Habitual is, after a brief female voice welcomes us in Spanish, an adrenaline-charged rush through LA funk-punk-metal, the first three tracks all played at breakneck speed, nonsense lyrics (“Bumped my head / I’m a battering ram / I goddamn took the pain”) juxtaposed with allusions to racial inequality (“My sister and her boyfriend slept in the park / had to leave home because he was dark”) before the 6-minute repetition of “Obvious” hints at the weird, disconcerting voodoo to come on side 2.

Before you flip the record (I’ve only ever owned this on CD, of course) though, you get “Been Caught Stealing”, massive student-disco hit from the dawn of the 90s, like a Californian take on Happy Mondays. It is, purely and simply, about the joys of stealing things from shops. There’s literally no other way to interpret it. There’s a barking dog and some of the most outrageous riffing you’ll ever hear.

Side 2 is a different kettle of fish. It opens with the 12-minute voodoo-metal paean to the ménage-a-trois depicted on the album’s cover (in a papier-mâché sculpture by Perry Farrell) that is “Three Days”, somehow both profound (“Without game / Men prey on each other”), blasphemous (“Erotic Jesus lays with his Marys / Bits of puzzle / Fitting each other”), and ludicrous (Dave Navarro’s extraordinary guitar abuse).

“Then She Did”, an acoustic-Zeppelin-alike with woozy, disconcerting electric violin, documents the heroin-overdose death of a female friend of Farrell’s, and also the suicide of his mother when he was 4, while “Of Course” is a strange European-sounding folk dance with lyrics about man’s inhumanity to man. “Classic Girl” closes the album gently, a lovely tune with words about being cocooned from LA gang violence by being in love, and about what dicks men are.

I expected most if not all of DRC to be familiar with Ritual…; how wrong I was.

Graham listened: I was intrigued to listen to this as it’s a band I always felt I should have found out more about when this was released. Whatever preconceptions I had were wiped out with one listen. I was expecting something much grungier and darker, frankly this plain “rollicking”.

Rob listened: With the notable exception of ‘Been Caught Stealing’, which is a proper unhinged pop fusion classic, the less I hear Jane’s Addiction, the more I like them. Or to put it another way…

I find the idea of this band much more appealing than the actuality. I heard them a fair bit during my student days and once past the schlock shock aesthetic – Alice Cooper did it better and funnier 20 years earlier – the music is just too forced, too predictable. If they made a sound anywhere near as wild as the image they managed to flog then they might have had something but, for me, they’re just another bunch of whiny West Coast rockers. And can there be four more dread words in music than “LA punk-funk-metal”?

Tom Listened: About one third of the way through Ritual de Habitual, Nick suggested (as the rest of us wittered on about something or other) that it hadn’t been getting much of our attention. My immediate reaction was to feel a little guilty – he certainly had a point – but I think the surprising anonymity of the record was also partly to blame.

I had never knowingly heard Jane’s Addiction before having always been put off by their antics and look (and also by how they were described musically, although this was probably a secondary factor) I was expecting something quite industrial and extreme. In my mind I have had them down as precursors to Nine Inch Nails and bed fellows of The Young Gods or Einstürtzende Neubatten. I was shocked by how unshocking this was…which made me then think about the the band’s image and, by the end of the record, (by which time it had got a bit more interesting, admittedly) I was feeling somewhat piqued that their record buying public had been duped into thinking they were getting some sort of edgy, rebellious manifesto where as in actuality, to coin Rob’s phrase, they were investing in some LA punk-funk-metal. Emperor’s New Clothes anyone?

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