Jane’s Addiction has been a balancing act between metal and alternative rock since the late 1980s, and has monotonously failed to stray from that sound on ‘The Great Escape Artist.’[/media-credit]

Jane’s Addiction has never really been comfortable with its place in music. Emerging in the late ’80s, its style never fit the “grunge” label. Embraced by hipsters and critics, the group released two albums before band infighting tore its members apart.

Intermittent reunions over the next decade eventually led to a mediocre third album in 2003. After another breakup, reformation and four bass players, Jane’s Addiction has released their fourth album, The Great Escape Artist.

Jane’s Addiction’s style hasn’t changed much since they hit the scene about 20 years ago. Bombastic Led Zeppelin-inspired riffs are accompanied by heavy bass and a thick drum sound. Layered over the top are Perry Farrell’s high-pitched vocals. While often fitting, they occasionally stray to be annoying, especially on this album.

The Great Escape Artist lacks identity. Guitarist Dave Navarro is stellar, as always, and his solos steal the show on nearly every track. The drums, pompous and loud, are similarly well done.

The problem emerges when you add in Farrell’s strained vocals and extraordinarily poor lyrics. While he has never been a fantastic writer, his passionate delivery made up for it. Not so in this case. Often, Farrell sounds like he’s eager to get to a paycheck waiting at the end of a song.

The bass on this album is played by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. As such, it lacks the cohesion and creativity of someone who is truly comfortable with his bandmates. While not necessarily bad, the bass guitar was always a highlight on the first two records. Having it be so mediocre here is truly disappointing.

Jane’s Addiction was clearly influenced by contemporary bands on this record. However, its members’ intermittent time together over the past two decades has revealed that the band is being pulled in too many different directions – there is not one distinct “great song.”

Perhaps if the band’s members can stay together this time, their next record will finally reveal what they are all about. But here they deliver an album that is just present. Neither good nor bad, The Great Escape Artist’s biggest problem is that it is not memorable.

2 stars out of 5