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Farrell's Lucky Life

Porno for Pyros
John Eder

Jane's Casual Habit: Perry Farrell, of Jane's Addiction fame, contemplates the good life, flanked by Porno for Pyros' Stephen Perkins (left) and Peter DiStefano (right)

Perry Farrell, once addicted to Jane, lightens up with Porno for Pyros

By Gina Arnold

PORNO FOR PYROS frontman Perry Farrell will probably go down in musical history as the least judgmental man in rock. He could hardly be said to be wedded to any one trend or style, since in the past 10 years, he's managed to Cuisinart every possible influence into a semi-seamless whole. A self-professed drug user who is also a high-powered businessman (he co-owns the highly profitable Lollapalooza organization), Farrell is the perfect human cross between hardcore punk rocker, icky hippie and yuppie scum.

Although he is easily one of the more compelling characters in rock today, Farrell is, if anything, less compelling now than he was a decade ago when he led the band Jane's Addiction. The sight of him, in the midst of the staid 1980s, dressed in velvet pants and dreadlocks was shocking and joyous, completely riveting.

Add to that visual jolt songs like "Ted Just Admit It," "Stop" and the astonishing "Jane Says"--one of the saddest and best-written ballads of the rock era--and you had a band that could warp the mind of youth everywhere, force everyone forward into the future, kicking and screaming for more.

In short, more than any other band of the '80s (including Sonic Youth and the Replacements), Jane's Addiction was responsible for creating a commercially viable alternarock scene out of various disjointed elements in underground rock. By melding seemingly disparate elements--women's underwear with dreadlocks; metal with punk rock; black leather with lace--Farrell threw off a lot of the low-key elitist snootiness that alienated so many plain old rock fans from indie rock. He added some glitz and glamour to the mix without taking away from his music's intrinsic humanity and smarts.

FARRELL'S latest band, Porno for Pyros, is a gentler-sounding outfit than Jane's Addiction. It has its mellow hippie aspects and its metal moments, but overall, it is a lesser thing than Jane's was--more watered down, more unfocused.

No doubt Farrell likes his new cohorts better than his old ones (Jane's broke up due to personality conflicts within the ranks), but there is no tension here, no sonic dissonance or hard-edged moments, no catharsis.

Porno for Pyros is a hazy, feel-good kind of band, completely lacking in angst, and a band that--surprisingly--very seldom rocks out. Farrell has often publicly extolled the virtues of heroin; listening to Porno, one can't help but wonder if the narcotic has taken some of the edge off his personality.

The band's second album, Good God's Urge (Warner Bros.), has one great song on it, the single "Tahitian Moon." The rest is atmospheric musings ("Porpoise Head," "Wishing Well"), meandering ballads ("Kimberly Austin," "Bali Eyes") and simple philosophical statements ("Thick of It All," "Good God's://Urge!"). Amazingly, the record took two years to make but is only 38 minutes long, a rare exercise of restraint that is greatly appreciated, given how many artists go the opposite direction.

Although Good God's Urge is not a very long or complicated record, it has a nice, natural feel to it, and some excellent Janey moments. "Freeway" actually rocks a little, and "dogs rule the night" has a great groove, and some funny lyrics: "Dogs they roam remember where their home is. ... When it's time to mate they're not too particular."

Still, one can't help but think that Farrell is at a creative low ebb here. The record involved several bass players, including Mike Watt of fIREHOSE and David J of Love and Rockets as well as a guest appearance by former Jane's guitarist David Navarro on "Freeway" (which makes one wonder if a reunion isn't in the works). In short, it wasn't the most cohesive of recording projects.

For all that, there is something pleasant about Farrell's hedonistic and good-natured attitude toward life, which permeates every one of the songs here. He is that rare rich rock star who enjoys his lucky life and honestly doesn't mind telling us so: "I've got Bali in my eyes. ... What a day it's gonna be"; "I don't know if I'll make it home tonight but I know I can swim under the Tahitian moon." It certainly makes a change from the many troubled whiners who abound in the field of rock.

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From the June 20-26, 1996 issue of Metro

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