Jane's Addiction strays back

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It would be too much to ask for Strays, the first Jane's Addiction studio effort since 1990's fondly remembered Ritual de lo Habitual, to assert itself with the impact of "Been Caught Stealing" or "Jane Says."

There are enough essential elements - churning guitars, ebullient choruses, explosive rhythms and Perry Farrell's high tenor - to make these 11 songs better than one might expect.

Even if the result is a little too formulaic to be the potent concoction it once was, it still makes guitarist Dave Navarro's less ambitious solo work and Farrell's dabbling with electronica and Eastern music look like so much wasted energy.

With drummer Stephen Perkins and new bassist Chris Chaney, the reunited Jane's Addiction has delivered an album worthy of its marquee status at this year's highly anticipated Lollapalooza Tour (coming to Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va., tomorrow).

The crunching guitar attack on the opening "True Nature" shows that the band is prepared to go elbow-to-elbow with the new crop of post-millennial metalheads. Producer Bob Ezrin, whose resume includes Pink Floyd's The Wall, slathers Navarro's cascading solos with an imposing wall of production that's never obtrusive.

Mostly, however, the big sound is muscular guitars, which assert themselves with clarity and power on the first single, "Just Because." The ringing rhythms combine with Farrell's soaring, echo-laden vocal to yield something close to the majesty of U2, if it weren't so raucous.

Although most of the songs are served in radio-friendly doses, Farrell and friends do approach the six-minute mark on "The Price I Pay," a confessional song that segues from a moody opening accented by keyboards into a full-throttle assault.

"I always do the wrong thing, but for a very good reason," Farrell rationalizes, just before the song blasts into a hedonistic frenzy.

Although that song rides a cushion of orchestration, it's Navarro's guitar that defines the album, chugging insistently behind "The Riches" or strumming a sunny background in the acoustic ballad "Everybody's Friend."

His wicked, angular riffing is the backbone for "Superhero" and "Wrong Girl," a pair of incendiary, sharply rhythmic tracks that mark the album's midway point.

"You know I need you desperately," Farrell shouts in "Superhero," a vulnerable plea at odds with his boasting: "I'm not some average guy."

On Strays, he and Jane's Addiction usually manage to do better than average.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Jane's Addiction

Strays (Capitol) * * * 1/2

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