Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual

This might meander at first, but bear with me:
In 1990 I was just coming into my personal musical renaissance. My social circle was expanding, and with it, my exposure to all types of music and bands I’d never heard of. It was awesome. Among my new friends was a guy named Tim. Tim was, to me, the coolest guy in high school. He had a cool car. His girlfriend was beautiful. He was the lead in the school play. He wore clothes that no one else could get away with. He made short superhero movies during his spare periods. Jocks loved him. Drama geeks loved him. Teachers loved him. He rode BMX, told the best jokes, and was an incredible artist. Everything about him was cool. Except for one thing – his taste in music.
To a wannabe like me, some of it was okay, but most of it was just weird, and none more weird than his favorite band – Jane’s Addiction. Their album Ritual de lo Habitual would blast out of his room whenever I visited, and I just didn’t get it. They were awful. Their music was all over the place, the singer had a screeching, scraggly voice with no finesse, and I never gave them much thought beyond that. Maybe I just wasn’t cool enough or mature enough to really appreciate it? Over the years a song or two of theirs occasionally drifted in and out of my consciousness and I read their name sometimes in articles on influential artists, but I never really gave them a good listen. So, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity.ritual_de_lo_habitual_cover
Formed in 1985, the band managed to slalom past the tragic gravity wells of various styles and fads – hair bands (Cinderella, Poison), hard rock (Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row), pop (REM, U2), and the early days of grunge (Mother Love Bone, Sonic Youth). They maintained their unique sound and gained a large cult following before breaking up in 1991, when their farewell tour launched Lollapalooza, the Granddaddy of modern rock festivals. (That was also the same year Nevermind blew everyone else right out of the water, so maybe it was good timing).
As Jane’s Addiction, vocalist Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Eric Avery have inspired a wide swath of the industry and have retained a loyal following, even as the members moved on to various solo projects (most notably Farrell and Navarro). The band has reunited several times since then to various levels of acclaim, but none of their efforts have resonated like Ritual de lo Habitual did. Indeed, Rolling Stone listed Ritual de lo Habitual #55 on its list of top 100 albums of the 1990s.
But despite never being a fan, even now – 25 years later – I’m immediately transported back to Tim’s basement whenever I hear the spoken opening words to Stop (performed by Cindy Lair – yowza). I wanted to give this album a solid re-listen as an adult, and get the input from you fine gentlemen as well to see if the album improves with time and a more mature point of view, or if it’s really just designed for a specific type of listener at a specific point in time. I have a feeling it’s the former, as these two conflicting reviews from Rolling Stone attest:
October 1990: “Ritual de lo Habitual finds Jane’s Addiction thin and wandering…Split into a hard-rockin’ side and a prog-rock side, the album doesn’t cohere — whatever the band members have been doing for the last two years, they haven’t been practicing much.” – RdlH album review
April 2011: “Ritual is the album most likely to convert skeptics. Not only does it have two great singles — the game of sonic peekaboo “Stop!” and the anarchist manifesto “Been Caught Stealing” — but the whole record rides a groove that’s as hard and frenetic as the Santa Monica Freeway leading right into these surfers’ beloved curl.” -100 Best Albums of the 90’s list
-Greg Jorgensen
Please click here to read our reviews of Ritual de lo Habitual.
Ritual de lo Habitual on iTunes
Jane’s Addiction on Wikipedia
Ritual de lo Habitual on Wikipedia
Jane’s Addiction official website

Review of Pixies: Doolittle

Please view our selection of Pixes: Doolittle here before reading our reviews below..
I think the best part of this artist and album review is how uncannily our reviews were alike. At this point, Scott, Alain and Greg send the reviews to me (Darren) and I compile and write the summary. I always write my review before I read any of my peers reviews as to not be influenced by them. I think I need to get one of the other guys to start compiling and writing these reviews as I am clearly the weakest writer, lol (Is that cool to write ‘lol’ like that at 45?). At any rate, back to the summary.
What was cool about Doolittle and the Pixies:

  • All of us with the exception of Greg mentioned we were influenced by the fact that The Pixies were one of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana’s influences.
  • We all really liked The Pixies and all gravitated towards some songs that we each loved. Funny enough, our favourite songs were all different, which is saying a lot in itself.
  • We really felt that the quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach was a new and innovative concept that is apparent in many new alternative rock artists and influenced many bands you hear now.
  • The bass player and original member Kim Deal was a big deal. We mentioned how we loved her bass line as well as her vocals that contrasted Francis Black’s. It amazed me personally how she entered the band by being the only person to show up to the auditions but she didn’t know how to play bass, nor did she have one. You have to respect that. She learned over the 18 month period before they really started to play clubs.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • As many great songs as we liked, we all felt that there were some songs that were “really out there”(Darren’s words) that we couldn’t connect to. Funny enough, as mentioned, we all had different songs that pushed our limits.
  • The band politics cut their career short. Kim Deal was replaced by some other Kim and The Pixies continue to tour but it seems more like a money grab than an attempt to produce great new music.
  • We were all shocked that the Pixies were not more popular in their time and unheard of until bands like Nirvana started referencing them as influencers.

We have all agreed that we would highly recommend buying and listening to The Pixies. We feel that everyone would take something away from this experience and appreciate the songs and the influence this moderately successful band had on current music. Well played Pixies… well played…
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
Having read a fair bit about this album before listening to it, as it was my pick, I’m wondering what impact that information had upon my impression of it? A lot I reckon. While listening to my very first Pixies’ album, Doolittle, I couldn’t help but think of the many comments I read online: everything from it being one of the best rock albums ever to how it shaped Nirvana’s sound on Nevermind. These comments definitely ticked away in my head as I consumed Doolittle’s 15 interesting tracks and tried to make sense of it all.
The album is a rich one that I’ve listened to in full about 10 times so far and am still not entirely sure what to make of it. There are obvious hit singles like Here Comes Your Man, then some downright confusing ones like Mr. Grieves, but the album challenges throughout. This was no doubt very new territory being explored back in 1989; two years before Nevermind came out and Grunge rock took the world by storm. And that’s where Doolittle impresses – it clearly informed so many bands’ music to come in the following decade. I Bleed sounds very much like Weezer’s Beverly Hills or vice versa, and I could hear a little bit of other bands in almost every track. There’s clearly a reason this album has become such a classic in rock circles.
I’ll continue to dig through Doolittle, listen to the lyrics (something I’m very bad for not doing) and will check out some of their other works. My interest is peaked and while I was hoping to completely love this album, the fact that I’m still not entirely sure demonstrates its depth and complexity. I may be a Pixies fan in the making.
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
Ok, so I was already a Pixies fan and had their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies greatest hits album and Surfa Rosa album. However, I had not really listened to Doolittle nor had I really given them the proper playtime in my play lists rotation. Would listening to this album and learning about this group make me want to get more Pixies, the same or less?
I was first exposed to the Pixies in the early 90s when I heard an interview with Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl from Nirvana talking about how they based the song Smells Like Team Spirit on the style of the Pixies of playing slow and soft and then playing fast and loud. Kurt thought the song was so much like a Pixies song that he actually didn’t want in on the Nevermind album. Kurt Cobain then went on to rave about how much he loved the Pixies and their impact on music.
I listened to some of their stuff back then and thought it was ok, but perhaps a little too alternative for younger Darren at that time. About 8 years ago my music addiction escalated and I rediscovered the Pixies and I bought their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies album. I bought Surfa Rosa after that and I do enjoy them but never felt compelled to really buy more.
After listening to Doolittle multiple times this month I can say that I am a bigger fan although there are still songs that I find uncomfortable. I guess I just didn’t have that much teen angst back in the day. Lol. The one thing that really stood out was the bass playing of Kim Deal. For the first time I really noticed the beauty of the simplicity of her bass playing. So many other bass players would try to embellish their role, especially as the band progressed, but Kim seemed to be able to stay in her groove and really drive the rhythm. I caught myself bobbing to her bass line more than the drumbeat, and I loved it. They also were playing a different style of music and alternative rock than anybody was playing then. I’m not the biggest fan of many of the new alt-rock artists as I find their music too slow and depressing, however you can’t deny that many have been influenced by the Pixies.
I’m happy to say that I would highly recommend listening to the Pixies for any fan of rock and alternative music. Buy Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, get yourself a little fuzzy and sit back and listen to a great amazing band that will push you to places that you’ll enjoy and perhaps even find a bit disturbing. A great pick Scott.
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

As a kid, I was a huge Nirvana fan and found myself captivated by their enigmatic front-man, Kurt Cobain. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to learn about the bands he liked. I wanted to know what influenced him. This was where I got my first exposure to the Pixies. I read that Kurt was heavily influenced by the Pixie’s use of dynamic range, and it was never more apparent than in Nirvana’s megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit. Kurt outright admitted to incorporating the Pixies’ unique quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach to song structure. Despite such praise from the almighty Cobain, I didn’t give them much thought. I liked a few Pixies songs, but they were just too underground for my narrow-minded music sensibilities at the time, and the only kids I knew who liked them were proto-hipster douchebags.
When Scott suggested Doolittle for review, I was excited. I needed an excuse to objectively listen to the Pixies free from my preconceptions. Here are my thoughts on the album:

  • Most of the songs on Doolittle are really short. In fact, the entire album’s run-time is less than 40 minutes. There are only 2 tracks that exceed three minutes. If I saved up my allowance money for a Pixies album as a kid, I think I would have been pretty disappointed.
  • The songs tend to hold up pretty well today despite being nearly 3 decades old. They somehow combine surfer-rock, low-fi grunge, and pop music sensibilities nicely. None of the songs on the album sound particularly like the one before it, which I count as a plus.
  • I really dig the dual vocals between Francis Black and Kim Deal. The male/female vocal dynamics really play well with the loud-quiet-loud thing the Pixies are known for. I wonder if they influenced the band Mother Mother, who also employ dual-gender vocals to great effect.

I actually enjoyed Doolittle more than I expected to. I find myself regretful of disregarding them in my teenage years. My least favourite song on the album is Silver, and my favourite song is Gouge Away.
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
The first time I knowingly heard The Pixies was during the final, perfect scene of Fight Club, when Where is My Mind played over scenes of exploding skyscrapers. That being said, I still didn’t know much about them, so was pumped to get into Doolittle.
I really loved this album. Well, parts of it I loved and parts of it were less memorable, but overall I think it’s a really tight listen. In my bio I say that I usually like the most mainstream selections of any type of music and this is no exception. By far my favorite tracks were the radio-friendly Here Comes Your Man and Gouge Away. I thought the rest of the songs were all good, but structurally seemed less cohesive – reminded me of many of the bands that came out in the mid-90’s that were defined by off-kilter singing and slightly wonky chords and choruses, ie the Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Better than Ezra, etc. But better than those one-hit wonders, of course. On top of that, I caught stretches that could easily have been a B-side from early albums by Nirvana, Weezer, and even Anthrax.
I read up a bit on Wikipedia, and was shocked to read the the album featured “references to surrealism, Biblical violence, torture and death”. Maybe I’m not listening close enough, but that stuff went right over my head. I also appreciated the few times where the band tried something really different – Mr. Grieves and Silver. Reminded me of the first time I heard Hot Dog by Zeppelin – as tight as their ‘regular’ stuff but a weird, fun departure.
The songs I liked most, mentioned above, are much more ‘poppy’ than the others. That, along with something I read saying that Doolittle strays from the Pixies’ regular more raw sound, make me wonder if I actually like The Pixies, or just like Doolittle. But I’ll happily dig into their full catalogue to find out.

Kraftwerk: Autobahn

Lately I’ve found myself captivated by the kind of music that can be produced through the digital medium. Of course, I’m talking about electronic music. With computing technology advancing so quickly, a new wave of artists such as Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Diplo have emerged with practically nothing more than some consumer-level laptops, software, and a unique sound to become chart-topping producers and artists. Not to detract from their talents and mainstream accomplishments, but these guys aren’t the true pioneers of electronic music. I wanted to explore the roots of this genre and see where the world of EDM owes its biggest debt of gratitude.

Kraftwerk - Autobahn
Kraftwerk – Autobahn

In the early 1970s, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider met as college students, both of whom were enrolled in a music school in Düsseldorf. They had previously played together in a number of bands and were active members of the “Krautrock” music scene. The duo began to make experimental recordings, working with a variety of other musicians, using traditional instruments like guitars, drums, basses, and uh, flutes … all of which were electronically processed to produce different effects. With each experimental release, the group now called Kraftwerk, began to incorporate more electronic equipment such as synthesizers and drum machines into their recording sessions. By 1974, Kraftwerk had reached international acclaim following the release of their fourth album, Autobahn. Though not purely an electronic album, Autobahn made significant use of Moog Synthesizers,  drum machines, and various custom-built contraptions.
Synthesizers and drum machines were around before Kraftwerk came onto the scene, but most “proper” musicians at the time regarded them as nothing more than electronic curiosities. Kraftwerk managed to incorporate this electronic audio equipment into their flavour of music in a way that had never been done before, and their influence can still be felt today.
Just a small selection of notable musicians directly influenced by Kraftwerk:

  • David Bowie
  • Joy Division
  • Bjork
  • Depeche Mode
  • The Human League

According to NME, Kraftwerk’s electronic pop sensibilities even contributed to the creation of groups like Daft Punk and The Prodigy.
There we have it. Give Kraftwerk’s Autobahn a shot. See if you can imagine how this sound would ultimately go on to influence a lot of the stuff you hear on popular radio.
– Alain Dupuis
Click here to read our reviews of Autobahn. 

Buy Autobahn on iTunes
Kraftwerk’s Wikipedia page
Autobahn’s Wikipedia page
Kraftwerk’s official website
Kling Klang app by Kraftwerk