Anchored by the band’s set from Virtual Lollapalooza and new interviews, “Replay 2020” explores the roots, music and impact of alt-rock icons Jane’s Addiction.
At one point during this Jane’s Addiction documentary, guitarist Dave Navarro describes the group as “a traveling art installation.” The image is apt: During the alternative music boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Los Angeles band was populated by iconoclasts who became rock stars.
Fronted by Perry Farrell — a shamanic presence with a piercing, high-pitched voice — the band embodied the era’s anything-goes mentality. Musically, Jane’s Addiction songs combined influence from tornadic punk, flashy funk-metal and spiritual classic rock; thematically, their lyrics were frank and forward-thinking, delving into social issues (e.g., interracial relationships, the human side of drug addiction) and big questions probing nature, sex, religion.
There’s no denying the enduring power of the band’s unique chemistry and formidable musicianship.
Today, the band’s hedonistic vibe and penchant for mind-expanding philosophy and aggressive sonics feel like a relic from a more free-spirited time, when echoes of ‘60s idealism still permeated rock. Still, there’s no denying the enduring power of the band’s unique chemistry and formidable musicianship.
When Lollapalooza 2020 went virtual, the current Jane’s Addiction lineup — Farrell, Navarro, long-time drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney — convened for a mini-set, their first in three years, which is included here. There’s no rust evident as the quartet tears through songs such as the howling “Ocean Size” and frantic “Stop” with full lights and production. These performances also illustrate Jane’s Addiction’s range.
The 2003 hit “Just Because,” their only entry on the Billboard Hot 100 to date, is explosive, courtesy of Farrell’s keening howl and the combination of Chaney’s simmering bass line and Navarro’s scorching guitar blasts. In contrast, a tune from the band’s 1987 self-titled live effort, “I Would for You,” is aching and gorgeous, with mournful bass and understated guitar that resembles a seagull wail. A loose take on the 1990 track “Been Caught Stealing” boasts a jazzy interlude that adds pleasing new dimensions.
Short interview segments provide a baseline knowledge of Jane’s Addiction’s history as they touch on the band’s formation, major albums such as “Ritual de lo Habitual” (1990) and the quartet’s close association with Lollapalooza, the festival Farrell co-founded in the early ‘90s. Still, some of these interviews offer lovely insights: Perkins speaks movingly about the timeless nature of “Then She Did,” featuring lyrics Farrell wrote about the death of his mom and girlfriend, while multiple members offer engaging recollections about Lollapalooza’s communal early days.
Cover art for Jane’s Addiction’s “Ritual De Lo Habitual” album, Amazon
Fans will likely want more. Chaney mentions that each musician initially brought different influences to Jane’s Addiction’s sound, but only Farrell gives specifics: that he wanted to be in a band as great as the Beatles, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
The patchy narrative leaves some gaps. Original bassist Eric Avery, who was integral to Jane’s Addiction’s viscous grooves in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, is largely overlooked, and one of the group’s signature songs, the alternative rock hit “Jane Says,” is ignored. By the end, soundbites start veering into fluffy existential territory (“I refuse to ever think that we’d break up anymore; I just decide that it’s a break”) that doesn’t offer much insight.
The positive affirmations reflect who the musicians are today: older, wiser, sober and in a much healthier headspace than they were in their wilder heyday. But Jane’s Addiction connected so deeply with fans because of their willingness to give into a fuller spectrum of human emotions — grief, sadness and sorrow — and find the bittersweet beauty within this pain. That deeper story isn’t on the agenda here.
Jane’s Addiction “Replay 2020” Setlist
I Would for You
Had a Dad
Ain’t No Right
Been Caught Stealing
Annie Zaleski is an award-winning journalist, editor and critic based in Cleveland, Ohio. Her profiles, interviews and criticism have appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, NPR Music, Guardian, Salon, Billboard, Stereogum, The A.V. Club and more. Zaleski wrote the liner notes for the 2016 deluxe edition of R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” and contributed an essay to the 2020 Game Theory compilation “Across the Barrier of Sound: PostScript.” Her book on Duran Duran’s “Rio” for the 33 1/3 book series comes out in May 2021. She is currently working on the book “Why the B-52s Matter” for University of Texas Press.