From their birth in 1986 to their breakup in 1991, Jane’s Addiction were rock’s hip conscience in a square time. The band infused the stolid ’80s music scene with a Zeppelinesque, neometal sound that presaged the grindings of grunge bands. And in Perry Farrell, it gave the ’90s one of its first alternative-rock stars.
Now Jane’s are back with an unabashed homage to themselves: Kettle Whistle is a collection of outtakes, rarities and live tracks, with two new songs thrown in — and despite what Farrell might tell you, it’s more a historical document than an original album. Of the new material, which was written years ago but never recorded, the moody title track works best. Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea — filling in for original bassist Eric Avery — and drummer Stephen Perkins couple perfectly to create an atmospheric backdrop of beats and furtive melodies. The other new song, “So What!,” is a boisterous, if uneventful, jam session.
The vintage live songs here provide the most entertainment for the buck. Caught in their campy prime are Farrell’s inimitable stage shtick and the band’s deft wedding of stadium rock and punk attitude. On “Whores,” Dave Navarro’s indefatigable guitar solos figure as prominently as — and sometimes overshadow — Farrell’s quivering vibrato.
Die-hard Jane’s Addiction fans will certainly love all of Kettle Whistle. But despite the hype surrounding this record and the accompanying current tour, Whistle remains an exercise in nostalgia. We can follow Farrell and his merry men on their romp down memory lane, but casual listeners are advised to go back to the original albums; all the wishing in the world won’t make this old fruit fresh again.