Having just driven 3,100 miles in a little over 11 days and been subject to the 10-song rotation on every Clear Channel station from New York to Chicago, I’ve had plenty of time to analyze the first single, "Just Because," from Jane’s Addiction’s latest effort, Strays. I must admit, "Just Because" is a perfect road trip song, and once every couple hours I was beating my hands on the steering wheel to its infectious guitar. While clearly not as blunt as "Get your fucking piss cup out of my fucking face," the message in "Just Because," one of overwhelming optimism, urges us all to help our fellow man. Not for any motive; just because.
Unfortunately, "Just Because" is the lone high point in a mostly forgettable effort, a fact evident to the discerning eye from the album jacket alone. The cover features a band photo worthy of a GQ spread; the corresponding individual "don’t hate me because I’m beautiful" photos inside the jacket are even worse. Who knew or cared that Perry had totally ripped abs or that Dave Navarro could give us deep and brooding?
Remember back if you will to 1990 and Ritual De Lo Habitual, which was as much art as it was an album. The cover photo on that record is piece of relief sculpture by Perry himself (a cover that got the album banned from Wal-Mart), song lyrics are written in a simple black serif font on a white background, and band photos are credited to "El Photo Booth." This contrast is emblematic not only of the difference between the new Jane’s (read: Generation-X Rolling Stones) and the old Jane’s (read: Jane’s Addiction) but also of aging band in general. It turns out it is better to burn out than to fade away.
Besides, we should be so lucky as to have these bands fade away. The verb fade implies some kind of even decline in intensity (read: talent) with respect to fame (read: time). The expression should be more like "it is better to burn out than to hang around endlessly adding nothing to the conversation while doing nothing but tarnishing former glory."
Imagine if you will the office of a concert promoter where talks for the Lollapalooza tour are underway. "Perry," says the promoter, "I just can’t back this tour unless Jane’s has a new record and headline." Perry ponders the question for a moment, knowing full well he and the gang have no new material to speak of. The rest, as they stray, is history.