CD review of Up from the Catacombs: The Best of Jane’s Addiction by Jane’s Addiction

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Up from the Catacombs: The Best of Jane’s Addiction
starstarstarstarno star Label: Warner Bros/Rhino
Released: 2006
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They were the pied pipers of the alternative nation. A velvet car crash that sped you to the brink only to peek over the edge then zip off in another, equally bizarre, direction.

Before they introduced the world to the concept of a Lollapalooza, Jane’s Addiction volunteered to lead a generation into an enchanted musical forest with their combustible mix of alien charisma, sex, drugs, and a heaping dose of anarchy.

Thus is the welcoming segment of the liner notes within Jane’s latest “best of” compilation. To be completely fair, it is their first true, blue “best of” or greatest hits package by title, although half of their oh-so-brief catalog could well be interpreted as such. Keep in mind, this is a band whose debut album, Jane’s Addiction, was a live set of half classic rock covers and half originals laid to plastic by the little-known Triple X Records and bought by maybe 300 kids in the greater Los Angeles area in 1987. Neighborhood pals Red Hot Chili Peppers were already commanding the rock/punk/funk scene and taking any club dollars along the Sunset Strip that weren’t already committed to what was left of the dying hair metal movement. Suffice it to say, the cards were stacked against Jane’s from the beginning.

Perry Farrell’s highly publicized on-again-off-again relationship with Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, and Eric Avery never lasted long enough to win Jane’s Addiction Hall of Fame status, just an ultra-cool underground cult status over a very short period of time. They played fuzzy acid rock before the Smashing Pumpkins. They were cosmic long before the Black Crowes. They were fucking cool when little else in the alternative music world was, and they essentially rolled out the red carpet for Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Way too long after the fact, a blatant ATM receipt called Up from the Catacombs hits with most, though not all, of the really vital Jane’s cuts from their (basically) four year career. Twelve of the sixteen songs in Catacombs hail from the two landmark studio releases: Nothing’s Shocking (yes, the two naked chicks with burning wigs) and Ritual de lo Habitual. All the recognizable stuff is present- “Ain’t No Right,” “Stop,” “Been Caught Stealing,” “Pigs in Zen,” and of course, the live version (is there another one?) of “Jane Says.” Beyond that, the diehards will argue with the casual fans that deep album tracks like “True Nature” and “So What” were wrongly omitted. Personally, I think it’s a travesty that their stunning cover of “Ripple,” from the Grateful Dead tribute album, Deadicated, was neglected.

At the end of the day, however, this is a plenty respectable collection of signature material from a band who could never keep it together long enough to be considered legendary. These guys were immensely talented musicians, far too qualified to be hosting “Rock Star: Supernova,” I might add. But their star fizzled out time and again as the result of, well, at the risk of obvious punning, addiction. Yes, drugs, Hollywood-sized egos, power struggles, and more drugs were repeatedly the death of this band, regardless of what was posted to Navarro’s website as an excuse for scrapping the 2004 summer reunion tour:

In all honesty, we have broken up and rejoined roughly four times over the years. Perhaps that should shed some light as to where we are now. We really don’t know. Sometimes relationships don’t work, no matter how much time or energy you put into them. At that point, you realize it is healthier to go your separate ways than to try to keep recreating the magic of the early years. Sometimes the best creative relationships are the most combustible and they aren’t meant to last forever.

~Red Rocker