The last time that Jane's Addiction headlined Lollapalooza behind a high-profile album was, of course, 1991. Much changed in 12 years, though, and the declining fortunes of Perry Farrell's breakthrough festival during the summer of 2003 were matched by a desultory return from three-fourths of the original Jane's Addiction lineup on its third full album, Strays. Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Eric Avery (who declined his reunion invitation) had been a vision of '80s musical heaven since their studio debut, 1988's Nothing's Shocking. Farrell's art-school intelligence and originality made the band interesting, while Navarro's and Perkins' background in heavy metal (they're both significantly younger than Farrell) gave the band punch, adding the melodicism of power pop and the constant riffing of thrash. Though Strays possesses all these characteristics -- it's undeniably a Jane's Addiction record, and a powerful one at that -- it also illustrates that the group's formidable musical talents have been subsumed by an apparent quest to save its legacy. For Strays is, most of all, a safe record. Farrell's regal, echo-laden vocals are intact (and out in front like never before), as are Navarro's ragged, lyrical guitar solos, but the songs lag far behind. In fact, they never even approach the level of any Jane's material from their two proper albums. This isn't a record that would allow a throwaway stunner like "Been Caught Stealing" (the tossed-off jam that became the band's biggest hit) or the majestic ten-minute epic "Three Days." In their place is a set of majestic jams influenced by Farrell's second Porno for Pyros LP, Good God's Urge, a mystical mishmash of musical feelings and textures, not songs. The allure of Jane's Addiction is undiminished by Strays (this is still a band creating music unlike any other group on earth), but the imagination, bravado, and songwriting smarts apparent from their previous classics is missing.
AllMusic Review by John Bush