Untethered from Dave Navarro’s walloping guitar riffs, Perry Farrell’s latest solo album feels like a swirling, ADHD fever dream — and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Farrell has always been a bit like alternative rock’s David Lee Roth, a consummate party animal unafraid of pursuing his wildest flights of fancy. Outside of music, he’s currently working on building an immersive Las Vegas “experience” called Kind Heaven that he’s described as walking into an Asian street scene and, whether he’s recording or not, he continues to keep Lollapalooza going. So it’s often just a matter of finding focus for him to realize his ambitions, and the album Kind Heaven has no shortage of ambition.
There’s no one “genre” you can shoehorn the Kind Heaven record into, other than loosely something like electro-pop psychedelia, but that’s only because it’s all over the place. He made the record with a large ensemble he dubbed the Kind Heaven Orchestra, which includes current and former members of Soundgarden and non-original members of Jane Addiction and it prominently features his wife Etty on vocals. Together with a group of guests like Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins, the Cars’ Elliot Easton and Dhani Harrison, Farrell & Co. embark on a musical journey akin to Willie Wonka’s boat ride. Depending on the moment of any given song, it can be scary, sickening or thrilling. That’s both its greatest weakness and its biggest strength.
Kind Heaven contains nine songs that play out over just half an hour, and they move along at a dizzying clip. By the time they finish, you’re often still making sense of them. (Farrell also made a surround-sound version of the record for anyone really looking for stimulation.) There are broad moments of musical brilliance in there, but they’re often fleeting. Is “Spend the Body” a fusion of electro-pop and new jack swing? Is “Snakes Have Many Hits” a trippy, chamber-pop James Bond theme? Is “More Than I Can Bear” some kind of Bollywood Broadway crossover? Is “Let’s All Pray for This World” an oddball Traveling Wilburys leftover beamed in from some alternate universe? It depends on where you drop the needle.
Perhaps part of the reason the record feels so disjointed is that Farrell doesn’t view it as an LP at all — instead he considers it the soundtrack for the Las Vegas experience. Regardless of how you view the album Kind Heaven, it’s best digested in microdoses.