A Cabinet of Curiosities is a gift from the Jane’s Addiction archives to its fans, which I most certainly am one. Our paths crossed at a perfect time in the late summer of 1988. I was 21 when Nothing’s Shocking was released and what better soundtrack to the seemingly limitless possibilities of life at that age than a band whose music presented limitless possibilities as well, echoing Thoreau’s line “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
They confounded expectations on their albums and in concert presenting sounds, subjects, and moods that alternated between dark and dangerous, raucous and rowdy, sweet and tender. They could even be silly such as the time I saw them in 1989 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre where two young women dressed in traditional Mexican attire flung tortillas into the crowd while backed by the jazz instrumental “Thank You, Boys.”
The foursome of bassist Eric Avery, singer Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, and drummer Stephen Perkins all excelled as individuals yet their union was more than the sum of its parts, creating many magical moments for those that connected to what they were doing. Unlike many bands that ape their idols, Jane’s used them as inspiration. If you stopped and deconstructed what they were doing, the connections to what came before were obvious, but the quartet absorbed previous ideas and created their own art in the moment.
This set presents three CDs and a DVD, the latter of which was not made available for review. Disc 1 offers 17 demos from 1987, four of which have been previously released, sounding raw like the band did on their first album, the live “Jane’s Addiction.” The entire Nothing’s Shocking is on this disc except for “Ted, Just Admit It…” which starts Disc 2, and there are many differences to discover in the arrangements. An acoustic version of “Jane Says” finds Farrell with an effect on his voice. “Pigs in Zen” is missing the speech “about pain and suffering and being cold,” and the guitar sounds different. The drums are louder on “Up The Beach” as Perkins pounds away. “Mountain Song” adds piano while “Idiot’s Rule” is missing Flea’s horn.
It’s interesting to find they had been working on songs from Ritual de lo Habitual at this time as well, four appear on this disc including the transcendent epic “Three Days,” which still baffles me it did not become my generation’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Rarities include an early version of “Suffer Some,” which would appear with a different sound and lyrics on the Avery-less Strays release from 2003 and a complete version of “City” that appeared in truncated form with a truncated band on the Soul Kiss video.
Disc 2 has 12 tunes and they are broken into demos, rarities, and live material. The arrangement on “Ted, Just Admit It…” resembles a Bauhaus tune. There’s an unreleased “My Time” recorded at a rehearsal. The band shows their musical diversity and range, moving from the sweet melodious cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” to the fierce and powerful presentation of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” where they were joined by Body Count’s Ice-T & Ernie C. More influences on Jane’s abound as we get live covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” The Stooges “1970,” and “Bobhaus” which found Farrell singing the chorus from Bob Dylan's “Like A Rolling Stone” while the band played the music from Bauhaus’ “Burning From The Inside.” They usually it played as an intro to “Pigs in Zen.”
Disc 3 is a complete live concert from 12/19/90, the second show from a three-night stand I was lucky enough to attend at the Hollywood Palladium. It was an impressive night as Primus and special guests The Pixies were on the same bill. A few of these performances have turned up as B-sides and on the 1997 compilation album Kettle Whistle.
The concert opens with a “Drum Intro” by I don’t know who to get the festivities started. They launch into “Up The Beach” and Farrell announces, “Here we go,” as he does on all their albums, because we are all about to take off on a journey for parts unknown together though final destinations will vary.
After a few songs from the band’s early days, “Whores” and “1%,” they start to deliver on Ritual, the album they are touring in support of. This performance of “Ain’t No Right” was used for the video and is a classic because this is the night some idiot would hit Farrell with his Birkenstock and get ripped on because “he doesn’t even know fashion.” He goes onto say that he “knows one of you is on acid in a bad way; I’m on acid, too.” For some in attendance that wouldn’t take place until the next night.
On “Then She Did,” Farrell riffs Jim Morrison-like about living and death and making the most of things. At its conclusion, Farrell exclaims, “with that bullshit out of the way,” which is odd because the performance was very good, although it may have signaled at the tensions within in the band that would break up in less than a year’s time.
Next up, “Had A Dad” followed by “Been Caught Stealing” showcase the band. They deliver a great, extended jam before the former, and they cut loose and play around on the bridge of the latter. After “Stealing,” it’s funny to hear Farrell between songs saying, “this moment is once in a lifetime. It will not presented to you again like a beer commercial” yet here we have it. Not the exact moment, but darn close.
The DVD contains Soul Kiss, a compilation of band shenanigans that features an uncensored video of “Mountain Song” that MTV wouldn’t play. It also includes music videos and three songs performed on MTV Italy, all of which can likely be found online.
While the albums, excluding the unneeded greatest hits, are the best place to begin a journey into Jane’s sonic wonderland, A Cabinet of Curiosities is a strong enough collection that I wouldn't hesitate suggesting it to someone interested. Their music isn’t stuck in time and still sounds very modern.
Fans of the band will surely appreciate this set. Jane’s isn’t just attempting to “cash in, honey.” Rather, they provide a great audio autobiography through a lot of previously unavailable material. You’ll want to make it “mine all mine.”