Friday, November 4, 2011
The Janes Addiction/Wilco Deathmatch!!!!
Ok, ok, not really. But, because I bought both in the same week, I can't help comparing and contrasting.
The comparison is that both bands have settled into a comfortable middle age. Both have mellowed out. I don't think that Dave Navarro is in any danger of overdosing in a club bathroom, and I don't think Jeff Tweedy is going to blow his brains out- so, when I say "mellowed out", I guess I mean "have rejoined humanity". Both Albums sound relaxed and confident as compared to earlier, and you'd think that would be a good thing.
I think the contrast comes in based upon how suitable "mellowing out" is for each band. For Wilco, with their Electronic/Americana blend, it's a great fit. Dialing down the angst means that you get a chance to enjoy the melodies, and understand that they're enjoying them too. The themes still have spiked bits about loss, death, alienation, and existential dread, but from a more abstract view. There's still room for Nels to wig out, but it reads more like jokes between friends, than stubborn refusals to roll over.
Meanwhile, Jane's Addiction were dark Rock gods- the debauched sons of Led Zep, with Bauhaus theatrics. They don't sound like monsters of their Id, anymore, and that means they are now? what? Former monsters. Caged Rock beasts. Retired and toothless sleaze alligators. It's just not the right fit. We all like it when our depressed friend cheers up a bit, but do we really like it when the stripper's DJ decides to play weddings and Bar Mitzvahs? The comfort they radiate is less that of friendship and communal effort, and more about financial stability. There are parts that sound like the worst of U2- when they're coasting on formula. There are moments that call forth the primal ooze of their libidos, but precious little bodily fluids get spilled, least of all, blood, and, quite frankly, they suffer from becoming well adjusted middle aged businessmen.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what's not there- Wilco had Jay Bennett, and Jane's Addiction had Eric Avery. Wilco seems to have benefited from removing the conflict that Bennett brought, since towards the end, all he brought was conflict and Janes Addiction just isn't they same band without Eric Avery fighting against Perry and Dave. His contributions gave the songs thrust, and subversion by countering the more conventional stylings of Dave's Van Halenisms and the melodrama of Perry's histrionics.
So, yes, in this Deathmatch, Wilco wins. Even down to the titles- The Whole Love can be read two ways- as the entire love, or as the healthy love. The Great Escape Artist can be read two ways, as well- as Harry Houdini, or as a vacation planner ( an Artist at "great escapes"). Which would you rather listen to?