Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tunesday: "Ocean Size," Jane's Addiction

Not too long ago, I wrote about Oceansize, a U.K. band that took its name from this song. As promised, let's get to the business of why this song is undeniably badass.

I was hooked on Jane's when "Ritual de lo Habitual" was released in 1990 (no, "Ocean Size" isn't on it, but I'll get to it; I promise). The controversial album art and PMRC-mandated sticker were icing on what quickly became my favorite alternative album (yep, more than any Nirvana or Sonic Youth release).

Before "Ritual," I had heard a couple of Jane's earlier hits — "Mountain Song" and, of course, "Jane Says" — on the Edge (remember "Tales from the Edge"?) and had seen videos and pieces about the band on MTV's "120 Minutes." Compared to the previous two albums, "Ritual" was about as polished an effort anyone could ever expect from a fracturing and drug-addled band. The credit for the successful album belongs to producer Dave Jerden, with whom the band formed a good working relationship on their second album, "Nothing's Shocking." You might remember Jerden as the guy who friggin' produced damn-near every great alt-rock band of the '80s and early '90s (from Talking Heads and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Social Distortion and Fishbone). You could say he's sorta awesome.

After the first album — the good but disjointed live-show recorded "Jane's Addiction" — Jane's acquiesced to a studio setup and collaborated with Jerden. Visionary artiste/frontman Perry Farrell and bandmates were in charge for "Nothing's Shocking," but Jerden made the vision a reality. He captured the energy of a live show that Jane's thought couldn't be done. And that's where "Ocean Size" comes in. The third single from "Nothing's Shocking," it's an impressive (and loud, definitely crank the volume) statement. I interpret the song as yearning to be a bigger/badder version of yourself, a mammoth, indestructible version that's not taking ish from nobody, someone who's "no talk, all action."

A song about being as big as the ocean needs to sound like it, right? Mission accomplished. Dave Navarro's layered and laid-back 12-string chords start things off in the opposite direction, like a peaceful hippie bonfire gathering along the shore. Farrell joins in with breathy oooh-ing, and as soon as you can say kumbaya ... "three-four," the band erupts. What a massive sound — Navarro's distorted electric laid across the acoustic guitar ... bassist Eric Avery's thick-picked line and briefly dancing, melodic interludes ... drummer Stephen Perkins' stick-snapping aggressive fills ... and Farrell's echo-chamber effect vocals. I hit repeat often when shuffle mode treats me to this song. If Jane's ever tours again with the original lineup (not likely), I will gladly pay to stand in front of a stack of speakers and feel the crash of the sound waves.

What else? Original Jane's bassist Eric (Don't Call Me James) Avery is a bass genius and a personal hero. Let there be no doubt, his style and sound is the reason I chose a Fender Precision Bass over a Jazz Bass when I traded in my guitar about 20 years ago. Watch the video below for Avery's approach to playing simple, cyclical bass lines that cut through the mix and why he loves his P Bass.

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