Conversely, Farrell can occasionally sound like the exact thing he was when Jane’s Addiction began, a jaded twenty-something luring the local kids with tall tales of vice and depravity. “Show me everybody/Naked and disfigured/Nothing’s shocking,” he yowls on “Ted, Just Admit It…,” a song inspired by the first serial killer to double as a proto-reality television star. Not surprisingly, most critics took issue with Farrell yelping “Sex! Is! Violent!” ad nauseam, not because it exposed some kind of unspeakable truth, but because it sounded like something Jim Morrison would say; see also the spoken-word psychobabble section of “Pigs in Zen,” easily the album’s weakest song. Yet that line is ruthlessly designed to capture the mind of someone who’s probably only experienced sex and violence from their television, i.e., teenagers.
Nearly everyone in Whores speaks in hushed tones about Farrell’s childlike aura, a boundless curiosity that he explains as a kind of whimsical survival mechanism. “I’m constantly warding off boredom,” he told Melody Maker. “Boredom’s a disease.” But if you believe the theory that trauma and addiction keeps people stuck at the age when they first experienced it, there’s likely a darker force that brought Jane’s together before it blew them apart. Even if the members of Jane’s Addiction underwent tremendous mental, physical, and emotional suffering for their art, things likely would have turned out worse if they’d never met at all.
Jane’s Addiction didn’t stick around to lead the revolution they started. On September 24, 1991, Nirvana released Nevermind; two days later, the first incarnation of Jane’s Addiction met an end pulled directly from Farrell’s id. He played their final gig in Hawaii completely naked, then proceeded to spend an undisclosed number of days on the island with a “ravishing, young hottie showing up with a doctor’s bag and a wink in her eye.” From that point forward, Farrell would live out the peak of his influence as the co-creator and public face of Lollapalooza, the traveling festival that codified “alternative rock” for suburbs across the United States and served as proof of concept for offshoots like Lilith Fair, Smokin’ Grooves, H.O.R.D.E., and Ozzfest.
It didn’t take long for the message to change from “cash in” to “cash out.” These days, it’s admittedly difficult to consider the legacy of Jane’s Addiction outside of Farrell and Navarro’s relentless brand ambassadorship over the years, not to mention the use of 2003’s “Superhero” as the theme song for Entourage, a live-action rendering of Maxim wish-fulfillment that went against everything the band once claimed to stand for. But even in its creators’ absence, Nothing’s Shocking felt like a rebuke of what alt-rock would soon become: If Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Chris Cornell often shunned pleasure and adulation, rejecting their sanctification as brooding sex symbols, Jane’s Addiction were funky, funny, and unrepentantly carnal. Even with all the baggage of prophecy and influence, Nothing’s Shocking lives as a poignant, almost quixotic work of Hollywood imagination—not a documentary, but a beautifully doomed vision of a ’90s that could’ve been.
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