The problem the reformed Jane's Addiction faces on Strays, the L.A. band's first new studio album since 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, is one they predicted years ago: Nothing about it is shocking. In the band's first conquest, rock was theirs for the taking, "alternative" an idea they helped invent because the mainstream couldn't find a pre-existent name for their slutty mélange of Led Zep power, Doors drivel and Joy Division gloom. Now alternative is all about the micro-niche. You want Scandinavian garage-rock? Refurbished Tennessee boogie-pop? Samples of someone getting a nose job set to a thumping house beat? It's but a hop, click and a jump away.
Perry Farrell doesn't seem to want to accept this. For all the lifestyle options his Lollapalooza presented customers, he still wanted everyone to enjoy everything all together--Lush fans browsing PETA brochures alongside Body Count heads, Jim Rose teaching the Jesus and Mary Chain new party tricks backstage. The Janes' music reflected this fringe-dwelling communality, offering abandon for freaks of all stripes. A decade later, Strays--a long-winded, self-important rock record suffused with overworked riffs both instrumental and lyrical--plays to a market that doesn't really exist anymore (or at least doesn't buy records anymore). An attempt to be all things to all rockers, it's exactly the album Jane's Addiction would've made after Ritual if they hadn't imploded, plus maybe some of the lame electronica detailing from Farrell's solo stuff and a shinier, more muscular mix, because getting on the radio would probably be a help to selling the thing.
Which doesn't mean it lacks riffs you might care to hear: "Hypersonic" pivots on a heady groove the Chemical Brothers may eventually borrow, and Dave Navarro's playing in "Superhero" admirably narrows the distance between Tom Morello and Billy Corgan (before the Black Crowes horns barge in, anyway). But Strays is one fantastically context-less album, like Audioslave's without the Frankenstein factor. It's just memory-porno for retro-pyros.
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