Friday, November 12, 2010

November 12: Jane's Addiction, "Stop!"

Artist: Jane's Addiction
Song: "Stop!"
Album: Ritual de lo Habitual
Year: 1990

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While there are a handful of bands that completely defy description, there are another group of bands that once given a category, make it clear that they are so unique, that no other band can be called by the same stylistic name.  These are bands that completely ignored all musical trends and expectations and made music exactly as they felt most comfortable, and in most cases, it is these bands that serve as the turning points in the history of music.  Among these elite bands, there is one group that absolutely defied and destroyed any perceived rules in terms of what was necessary to be a hard rock or punk band, and in the process, became one of the most iconic bands in history.  Encompassing the entire definition of the word "art," and bringing some of the freshest and most unforgettable songs of their generation, there has simply never been another band that sounds quite like Jane's Addiction.  Emerging from the wild scene that was Los Angeles, California in the late 1980's, the band combined the fury of punk rock with a far more dramatic presence, as well as exceptional musical talent, and it is this formula that quickly made them one of the most sought after bands on the planet.  After releasing a few EP's and an album, Jane's Addiction finally broke into the mainstream with their 1990 record, Ritual de lo Habitual, and the band never looked back.  While it may not be the best known song on the record, there is simply no denying that the band is in top form and Jane's Addiction displays everything that makes them so extraordinary in their 1990 single, "Stop!"

After a brief spoken intro, "Stop!" kicks in already in top gear, as guitar god Dave Navarro tears across the track with one of the most iconic and blistering riffs ever recorded.  Navarro's playing immediately sets the tone for the song, and the rest of the band quickly drops in, instantly taking the song to a stunning level of beautiful intensity.  The bassline played by Eric Avery is equally impressive, as he seems to fly across the fret-board, almost daring the other band members to play harder and faster.  Drummer Stephen Perkins is clearly up for this game as well, as he sounds as if he is trying to destroy his drum kit due to the fury and power with which he plays.  "Stop!" quickly becomes one of the most dizzying displays of all that makes rock and roll so fantastic, as the band forms a tight groove within their perfectly constructed walk along the line of musical chaos.  At no point does the overall intensity ever let up, and "Stop!" is one of the few songs that retains its invigorating power even after countless listenings.  Yet the song also repesents the other side of Jane's Addiction's sound, as halfway through the song, the band drops into a spacey breakdown.  This ability to slow the pace but keep the intensity is what makes Jane's Addiction such a phenomenal band, and it is during moments like this that one can fully appreciate their knack for the dramatic aspect of music.  The fact that the band combines sounds of hardcore, punk, funk, and psychedelia among other styles all in one song is what makes them so unique, and also why "Stop!" stands so iconic more than twenty years later.

Completing the animal that is Jane's Addiction, there are few, if any performers of his generation that can compare to the sound, style, and sheer presence of Perry Farrell.  Without question, Farrell possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices in history, and in both the pitch as well as the mood of his vocals, he truly becomes another instrument within the music.  On "Stop!," many of his stylistic approaches can be heard, as his almost off-kilter sound on the chorus clashes brilliantly with the melodic beauty of the breakdown section, as well as presents a different style compared to the forceful, yet controlled singing during the verses.  Such vocal diversity is rarely found elsewhere in music, yet Farrell makes it seem like a simple task, and his presence on the song is much the reason that "Stop!" shot up the Modern Rock charts upon its release.  The song itself is a bit of a rallying cry against the masses, and yet the song brings such an upbeat mood, the true meaning behind the song is often lost.  The lyrics speak to the fact that musicians such as Jane's Addiction had far more influence over youth than nearly anyone else, as well as the fact that the band new quite well that they were destined for fame.  Both these ideas can be summed up in the final line of the verses, when Farrell declares, "...lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop..."  The statement also reflects perfectly the overall sound of the band on "Stop!" and in every aspect, they completely blow away their competition, and it is why the song remains so exciting and fresh to this day.

Truth be told, the opening lines of "Stop!," which are delivered in Spanish, are almost antagonistic in nature, as they roughly say, "...we have more influence with your children than you have..."  While such a statement holds much truth when it comes to the power of music, it is perhaps the fact that it was spoken in another language that Jane's Addiction was never vilified for their words much in the way many other bands of the time were treated.  Though the band certainly created controversy with their visual interpretations of their music (as well as their album covers), one can make the case that they were perceived as "less harmful" than many of their peers.  Yet in retrospect, few other groups played with a similar level of intensity than Jane's Addiction, and looking back, one can easily see them as equally, if not more "dangerous" than the bands that were given such labels.  But in every aspect, Jane's Addiction managed to defy any labels given by others, and their completely unique approach to making music, from the sound to the visual interpretation, is one of the key reasons that they remain such icons in the world of music.  Combining the high-octane groove of the rhythm section with the crushing, yet awe-inspiring guitar work of Dave Navarro, there is never any mistaking the sound of Jane's Addiction.  Finishing it off with the equally distinctive sound of Perry Farrell, and there is simply no other band in history that can be even remotely compared.  Though the single that followed would become their most commercially successful, there is simply no other song in the Jane's Addiction catalog that packs the punch and sheer rock beauty that one finds in their 1990 single, "Stop!"

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