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A Cabinet of Curiosities

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Album Review

One of the most lavish box sets ever devoted to an alternative rock act, A Cabinet of Curiosities is packaged in a wooden cabinet with a metal clasp, and includes a thick book, tarot cards, and tiny voodoo dolls. The packaging alone makes it an obvious necessity for fans, but the music inside the cabinet is problematic. Including three CDs of mostly unreleased demo or live material, plus a DVD of live footage and video clips, A Cabinet of Curiosities illustrates that, for Jane's Addiction, the finished product was by far the best possible way to hear the band's recordings — no surprise, given that Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual are two of the best LPs of the alternative era. Jane's Addiction was powerful but also very eccentric, which makes minor variations in their songs — which is what listeners hear on the majority of the studio demos here — sound oddly diminished in comparison. It's not just that the band picked the right version for release; from the evidence here, they entered the studio with virtually every song laid out and arranged very close to its finished version, leaving little intriguing about their demos. An example is "Up the Beach," unchanged in form, just lacking the punch and clarity that a first-rate production gave it to make it the powerhouse it is on Nothing's Shocking. Vocally, Perry Farrell's attempts at summoning the spirit of the frontman worked much better in the studio and on-stage after he grasped the most effective way to deliver each song. And though they were a powerful live force, the live tracks here (which comprise all of the third disc) make it clear that the band's appeal was visual as well as aural. As could be expected, the songs that never got an airing on their studio albums are the most interesting. Although it's clear why "Suffer Some" languished in the vaults, it's a more intriguing listen (and says more about the band) than any of the demos of released songs. The DVD is unsurprisingly the most interesting disc, including Soul Kiss (featuring the full version of the video for "Mountain Song," which MTV had banned), six of their video clips, and three tracks recorded live in 1990 for MTV Italy.


Formed: 1984 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Jane's Addiction were one of the most hotly pursued rock bands when they gained notice in Los Angeles in the mid-'80s, with record companies at their feet. Flamboyant frontman Perry Farrell, formerly of the band Psi Com, had an undeniable charisma and an interest in provocative art (he designed the band's album covers), and Jane's Addiction played a hybrid of rock music: metal with strains of punk, folk, and jazz. The quartet, comprised of Farrell, bassist Eric Avery, drummer Stephen Perkins, and...
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