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Sactown BOOM!
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The downfall of the 80's glam metal scene was a slow process, unlike what MTV would like us to believe, Nirvana didn't suddenly pop out of nowhere and the next day everyone was wearing flannel shirts. No, there was actually a slow build towards that point, and Kurt Cobain and company just happened to stumble in at just the right point in the revolution. While Mr. Cobain may remain the unrivaled King of the era, there is no doubt that this tidal wave was actually begun several years earlier, through various punk and alternative bands. Of these, let there be no doubt if Cobain was King, Perry Farrell was the Godfather, and Jane's Addiction was a band that broke barriers between the old guard metal fans and the new up and coming sonic vanguards.

Nothing's Shocking was Jane's Addictions first studio album. The band had previously released a live album on an independent label, which had garnered the interest of Warner Brothers records who snapped up the band for a then record signing bonus of between $250K-$300K. The album was released in 1988 and due to a scene showing full frontal nudity in its debut video for "Mountain Song" never received any airplay on the then all-important MTV. Despite this, through touring and hard work, the album caught on in specific circles, eventually selling 250,000 in its first year.

The album's opening song, "Up the Beach" is a slow grinder, building up the listener slowly before the surf comes crashing down with the next track "Ocean Size". A use of dynamics not widely seen in 80's music.

The next tune, "Had A Dad" showed the depth in Farrell's lyrics. While the glam bands were singing about getting laid and the other alternative bands were on the complete other end of the spectrum singing about stuff too arty for the masses, JA fell neatly in between with words such as

If you see my dad

Tell him my brothers

All gone mad

They're beating on each other

I walked around

Even tried to call

Got that funny feeling

He's not there

At all...

After this onslaught of metal-y goodness, the record follows up with the jazzy opening to "Ted, Just Admit it.." written to of course the serial killer Ted Bundy. Accentuated throughout with punchy power chords, and Farrell's thought-provoking lyrics, there was no way this song was getting any airplay, except on your CD player.

Lifting you up from this morass for the end of Side 1, was the Chili Pepper-esque "Standing In The Shower... Thinking". When I first heard the line "The water is a-piping hot" I thought he was saying "The water is so f---king hot". Oh well, add that to the misunderstood lyric pile.

Starting off Side II is "Summertime Rolls" - a slow catchy bass riff leading off to let the listener catch their breath after the frenetic end to Side I.

After the slow, lazy start to Side II, like a hammer comes in with "Mountain Song" which was also the album's MTV-banned video single. The song was also the first song the band ever wrote together in 1985, before they had even decided on a name for the band. The video that eventually was aired was made by a 3rd party contractor, and the band had no input on the video. Only on the "Soul Kiss" home video can the unedited original be seen.

Next up was "Idiots Rule". Now there was a song of the times. Musically, definitely out of the Chili Pepper bag of tricks. (Flea actually guested on the song "Thank You Boys" - playing trumpet). Once again lyrically, Perry didn't care whether his words were radio-safe. And it's not like in those days bands were using curse words all over their songs like they do today. There was still a good amount of self-censorship in general in the music biz. Jane's Addiction, however, were no such slaves to the norm.

Then came "Jane Says", a ballad telling the story of a heroin-addicted ex-housemate of Ferrell's. A classic Jane's tune, it often ends many of their concerts. Rife with drug references, the sparse arrangement was also featured on their live record which preceded Nothing's Shocking.

"Thank You Boys" then dials the mood over to the jazzy side. It's only a transition piece though - setting the listener up for the fiery finale "Pigs in Zen"

"Pigs in Zen" was another track that also appeared on their previous live album and then reappears on this album in studio version. As a fan, I'm somewhat torn between which version I like best. My first exposure was to the studio version, which is great. The live version also has its quirky charm to it too, though. Here are both versions for your comparison. The rants at the end are different. I like them both...

Studio version

Live Version

Jane's Addiction would only record 3 more studio albums in the 25 years since Nothing's Shocking's release, but they remain a very important band in Rock history. Farrell would be the major figure behind starting the Lollapalooza festivals, which brought alternative out of being called "alternative" and made people just refer to it as regular "rock" music. The wall was removed. There is no question the music we listen to today would not be the same without them.

January 4, 2014  02:52 PM ET

Great blog, Mr. BOOM! I was only in jr. high (1987 - 6th grade) as this era of music was ramping up, so it largely defined and influenced my musical tastes. It was also about that time that I got my first boom box, and I remember listening to the radio for hours, waiting for a song I liked so I could record it and make my own playlist.

January 4, 2014  03:02 PM ET

I was first exposed to Jane's Addiction in 1989. They were the headliner of Extravaganza, a free concert at UC Santa Barbara. It remains the best live performance I have ever seen. The energy of the band was like nothing I had ever seen before. While other bands like Metallica put on great shows, the rawness of that Jane's show sticks out in my memory.

January 4, 2014  03:09 PM ET
QUOTE(#2):

I was first exposed to Jane's Addiction in 1989. They were the headliner of Extravaganza, a free concert at UC Santa Barbara. It remains the best live performance I have ever seen. The energy of the band was like nothing I had ever seen before. While other bands like Metallica put on great shows, the rawness of that Jane's show sticks out in my memory.

I first saw them live around 90-91 during the Ritual de Lo Habitual tour. To this day I've never seen a band wrap an audience around their finger like that. It was literally hard to breathe until the band let up and they let you catch a breath.

January 4, 2014  05:02 PM ET

I have many memories that include Jane's. I think.

January 5, 2014  02:16 PM ET

Groovy blog. Dude.

 
March 18, 2014  03:27 PM ET
QUOTE(#5):

Groovy blog. Dude.

A trip down memory lane. Oh to be at Pioneer Square in 90-91

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