Sound — 9
The Great Escape Artist' is the first release of new material by Jane's Addiction in eight years, but you couldn't tell by hearing it. I went in with fairly low expectations due to the lapse of time since their last release and my personal disinterest in anything they've done since they released Ritual de lo Habitual', but I was pleasantly surprised. The album has 10 tracks and clocks in at forty minutes and is being released by Capitol Records. While forty minutes is on the verge of being too short for an album in my opinion, there isn't any filler on the album. Both the vocals and the guitar work blew me away.
Jane's Addiction got together in 2010 to begin writing the album, and after founding bassist, Eric Avery, left the band he was temporarily replaced by Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver) who did participate in some of the songwriting and performed live with Jane's Addiction before leaving due to creative differences. Bass duties were then taken over by Dave Sitek (from TV on the Radio) who also assisted in the songwriting and split bass duties on the record with Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney. Dave Sitek was only involved for the recording of the album, but Chris Chaney will be staying with Jane's Addiction for the forthcoming tour in support of the release of The Great Escape Artist'. The album was produced by Rich Costey who had worked with Dave Navarro on his solo releases. Three of Duff McKagan's collaborations ended up on the final tracks for the album Words Right Out of My Mouth', Broken People' and Ultimate Reason'.
The production is really textured well, with each song creating a tapestry of sound. The overall genre of the album I would probably call heavy alt-rock, with a slight goth-y vibe at times. The guitar work is genius, with some really interesting solos on the album. This is the first album where Jane's Addiction has really used a lot of electronics and new technology for both performance and recording. In several interviews, both Dave Navarro and Duff McKagan have described a Pink Floyd-ish type sound to some of the album and more specifically to Dave Navarro's playing. While this isn't something I picked up immediately on listening to the album, I can definitely see a little Floyd in Dave's playing especially in the solo for Irresistible Force'.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals/lyrics sound like what you expect from Jane's Addiction in an ideal world. The use of reverb and delay and other processing of the lyrics were done in good taste. After all the years that Jane's Addiction has been around (over 20 years, believe it or not), Perry Farrell's voice is just as impressive as it has always been. To me, Perry Farrell has an almost dream-like quality to his voice, which is also very distinct and has character. There are many vocalists that I don't feel like have any character in their voice and it makes anything they record come off as almost generic this is not the case with Perry Farrell. As always, Perry's vocals have been the perfect match for the music of Jane's Addiction.
The subject matter of the lyrics runs a pretty wide gamut, with Broken People' telling a story similar to such past Jane's Addiction songs as Jane Says'. The song I'll Hit You Back' (which has an almost James Bond vibe to it) is a song about trying to take the high road in a situation. The lyrics are well written, and the subject matter really fits nicely into the format as a Jane's Addiction song. No complaints from me on the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been really surprised with all the good music coming out in 2011, and this release absolutely falls in with that. To be honest, I expected a half ass effort by Jane's Addiction without the fire from their early releases, much like their last release, but they've definitely put out an album to be proud of with The Great Escape Artist'. Before listening to the album, but after hearing they were embracing new technology' in recording the album I was expecting a horrible train wreck, but they really incorporated their use of new technology in without taking away from their sound and power if anything it added to the end product.
My favorite songs on the album would be End of the Line', Curiosity Kills' and Words Right Out of My Mouth', but there are no throw-away tracks on this album. There are no songs on this album that I dislike. I've listened to this album several times at this point and haven't wanted to hit the skip button a single time. I'm usually not a big fan of music that is very busy, but Jane's Addiction has pulled off the perfect balance using the production to help create a bed of atmosphere for each song to lie upon. I've tried to think of something critical to say of the album in the name of a balanced review, but I really can't think of anything. I don't like the videos for the singles they have released, if that counts. This album will get a semi-permanent place on my mp3 player and will probably stay there for months to come. For me, this release is one of the most impressive of 2011.