Sunday, April 11, 2010

Duff McKagan Joins Jane's Addiction

2 things to start out:

1. I am not writing this post to bring you the news of Duff McKagan joining Jane's Addiction. If you are geeky enough to read this blog, you probably already know about it. If you don't, just google it.

2. In the interest of full disclosure, I am way more of a Jane's Addiction fan than I am a Guns N' Roses fan. I enjoy some Guns N' Roses, and I definitely enjoyed them very much in my junior high years. But Jane's will always win out for me.

So, were you shocked by this news? Are you the kind of Jane's Addiction devotee and old school alterna-groupie that finds the idea of a member of GN'R playing with Jane's Addiction distasteful and indicative of some sort of (ugh) "sell-out"? Do you question Duff McKagan's abilities as a musician and bass player, at least to the extent that he might possibly be able to fill the (extremely) able shoes of Eric Avery?

You may have an argument on the last point. Before I get to my argument about the former point, I have to say that, despite the fact that Duff McKagan is obviously a skilled bass player and can hold his own in most rock contexts, the music of Jane's Addiction (especially that of "Ritual De Lo Habitual") can be twisty stuff, and Eric Avery's bass playing on that record in particular is formidable. I will be interested to see if Duff can hang with some "Three Days" or the razor sharp turns and angles of "Ain't No Right". Now, I'm sure some of you GN'R enthusiasts will no doubt bring up latter day Guns N' Roses epics such as "Estranged", "Coma" and (of course who could forget) "November Rain" in terms of whether Duff can hang with learning songs of a more long-form nature. Those songs did have their own complex elements (to a degree), but "Three Days" they are NOT. "Three Days" is a TRUE musical masterpiece of the original alternative era, and shows all four members of Jane's Addiction at their absolute peak. Duff should consider himself lucky to even play the tune once. We'll see how he does.

And now to the former point.

It didn't take me long, after I received the news of Duff's new gig, to settle into a gentle resignation somewhere along the lines of "well yeah, okay." First of all, it's 2010, and we're talking about two bands who, for better or worse, started their careers the better part of 25 years ago. Time itself should allow us to move to a place of acceptance with this, but just in case it doesn't for you, let's go a bit deeper.

GN'R and Jane's are both from Los Angeles, and both formed around the same time. Both bands made aggressive, subversive music, at least for the time. Both had iconic lead vocalists that sang in high pitched squeals. There is probably an argument that they were the two most significant hard rock bands of the late 80's (hold on, hold on, HOLD ON!! YES, Jane's Addiction are a HARD ROCK BAND. Their music rocks. It's heavy and aggressive. Do not play like this is a misnomer). Not only that, these two bands, I would argue, were essentially two sides of the same coin. The drug-fueled Los Angeles underbelly was an essential part of both bands' mythology...neither one of them would have been what they were without it. I think these bands took essentially the same ideas and style and respectively delivered it to two different segments of the population. If you were a disillusioned, angry teenager in the late 80's who was desperate for some aggressive music that spoke to you and wasn't like everything else, Jane's Addiction was the band for you. If you were a disillusioned, angry teenager in the late 80's who was desperate for some aggressive music that spoke to you and you didn't necessarily live in the most metropolitan of places, Guns N' Roses probably ended up being your band. Maybe you were a GN'R fan and ended up discovering Jane's a few years later when you got to high school (like me). Maybe you really liked the fact that Dave Navarro was willing to essentially shred (after a fashion, at least), but that Jane's could still be cool.

Which brings me to another point. There were punk rockers who couldn't stand Jane's because of Navarro's guitar playing. I remember driving around with a friend and friend-of-said-friend in high school, with the friend-of-friend's Husker Du cassette in the stereo, and he said that Jane's would be so much better if Dave Navarro didn't take a "cheesy-ass, Poison-Motley Crue solo" every chance he got. I see his issue, but I also think it's extremely short-sighted to compare Dave Navarro's guitar playing to that of C.C. DeVille (maybe the biggest example of all-style-no-substance guitar playing of the entire butt rock era). Navarro possesses a style which is almost as (if not at least as) iconic as Slash's. The guy was a monster, at least at that point in his career, and his tone and style were as instantly recognizable as that of Slash. Neither one of them has done much playing of note in the last fifteen years or so, but from about 1987-1993 or 4, you could not fade either one of them.

But that punk rocker would have taken this moment, the moment where Duff from GN'R joins Jane's Addiction, as the moment where we should swear them off forever, and call them what they really are: butt rockers trying to masquerade as something cooler. For me, the proof will always be in the pudding: "Ritual De Lo Habitual" is probably one of the 10 best albums of the 90's, and it is certainly a way more compelling listen than either of the "Use Your Illusion" records. "Appetite For Destruction" vs. "Nothing's Shocking"? I will leave that one up to you. I'm sure many of you will say that they shouldn't even be considered on the same plane, but I think at this point in history we can see that's a shortsighted judgment, especially now that both bands have put out records in the new millennium that absolutely failed to live up to the legacies of their early work.

But maybe it's not for any of us to decide. If I can, I'm gonna take in a Jane's show and see what my ears think.

1 comment:

Crescentius said...

I completely concur with the statement that they're two sides of the same coin. 20 years later, Jane's and G 'N' R seem like the same genre to me now, although I would've considered that ridiculous in 1991. And Nothing's Shocking vs Appetite? I'm calling it a tie.

I think Duff will hold his own just fine; I don't think he's all that odd a choice. Now, when Slash offered to join the Stone Roses—that was weird!