I always thought it was cool that Eric Avery opted not to capitalize on the various Jane’s Addiction reunion shows over the years. I saw both tours: the first one, with Flea, was seriously one of the live music highlights of my life. The second, with the, uh… other guy– Peter DiStefano from Porno For Pyros–was one of the worst shows still that I’ve ever seen. And so it goes.
And speaking of cringe- inducing, “Hope- I-die-before-I-get-old” -isms, my favorite Jane’s Addiction song was always “Idiots Rule,” which of course contains the line “You know the man you hate?/ You look more like him everyday!” And when Eric Avery‘s new album, Help Wanted, came across my desk, I immediately thought of this couplet and hoped–knowing that I’d pull a Tim Russert on him here–that he wouldn’t suffer the same cliched fate as his former band mates.
He doesn’t. Instead what we have is a mostly downbeat, left- of- center, deconstructed and then reconstructed record that sits very comfortably I think in the 21st century.
Surprisingly, it turns out that Mr. Avery’s world- weary singing voice has a lot in common with both The National’s Matt Berninger and with one Thin White Duke. Indeed, David Bowie’s influence, especially the Eno stuff and “Diamond Dogs” (though there is no “Rebel Rebel” moment), seems to be all over the record. The cover art and liner notes appear to suggest that Los Angeles has been attacked by aliens (anyone remember the television show “V”?) and many of the lyrics are about dreams, dystopia, nuclear war, flying, and falling to Earth– all very Bowie, and Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, to me, but also very Arcade Fire and Radiohead at the same time. Everything goes in cycles.
Avery is backed up on most tracks by Taylor Hawkins (the Foo Fighters’ hard- hitting drummer), in what must be a departure for him, in that there aren’t a lot of hard- hitting, dynamic moments–the Fighters’ signature. Garbage’s Shirley Manson collaborates on one song, as does Flea, though he is on horns only.
Flea’s inclusion brings me to the only pointed criticism of the album I really have, besides that lyrically the album isn’t very varied: Where the hell is the bass? Jane’s Addiction’s bass lines were some of the most memorable in all of late 80’s/ early 90’s rock n’ roll (“Mountain Song,” “Three Days,” “Summertime Rolls,”) and on Help Wanted there seems to be more discernible xylophone than bass. Call me crazy, but doesn’t that seem like a grand, or gross, misappropriation?
Nevertheless Help Wanted is a cool record whether you prefer 70’s Bowie, Disintegration-era Cure, Love & Rockets, or The National. Just don’t buy it if you’re expecting “Mountain Song” or “Idiots Rule”–there may have been a time, but Eric Avery is comfortably saying “none like now.”
Words by Lee