Finding Porno For Pyros
It must be something about the time of year - almost summer, as good as summer ever gets right now too (if you live in Wellington). I'm loving going back to albums from the 1990s, albums that I loved, and obviously still do - but played to death back then...albums I haven't listened to in at least a decade.
There are some I could never really go back to. Moby's Play, for example. That train has sailed...
But Massive Attack's Mezzanine never sounded finer than at 6am yesterday. Inertia Creeps, hell, the whole album. Quite possibly the best thing they ever did. The last great thing they did at any rate; end of a great trilogy of albums.
Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik too - I fell out of love with the Chili Peppers a long time ago. You couldn't pay me to go a RHCP gig these days. Not a chance. But with enough time on the shelf Blood Sugar sounds extraordinary. I hear it now with fresh ears. It's all about Chad Smith. John Frusciante too, I guess. But Chad's playing on that album is almost unbelievable. Straight four-on-floor stuff and an impeccable feel. Real driving-seat drumming - and never quite just a rock-drummer and never only just a funk-drummer; a perfect hybrid then - he's done other great work but I took in Blood Sugar as if it was his masterpiece. That's how I heard it last week. He is running things on that record. The absolute boss of it all.
But the biggest win - in terms of 20-year-old albums (or close enough to it) has been rediscovering Porno For Pyros by Porno For Pyros. I seriously cannot remember when I last listened to this (I mean, other than just last night).
But it all came back. Straight away. The way the bass sings as Cursed Male hurtles toward its conclusion, the way the ride cymbal feels as though it appears from nowhere - a third arm perhaps? - as opener, Sadness pouts while strutting.
The title-song's band/album/song-chant-as-chorus. And Meija with its groove built from several different world-music styles; the bass-line weaving in and around, snaking...
Pets was the big breakout single and I'm hearing, so clearly, the timbale that's used in place of snare. I played the song in a band once - a long time ago. So many lifetimes ago, it seems.
I had a tape of Porno For Pyros - around the same time as Rage Against the Machine's self-titled album, both albums inspired by the LA Riots, or so the story goes. There were obvious lyrical references, but in the case of Porno For Pyros it was going to happen anyway. Jane's Addiction had called it a day; Perry Farrell got the name from seeing an ad for fireworks in a pornographic magazine. He had Jane's drummer Stephen Perkins along for the ride. That part was planned already. The band formed - with Peter DiStefano on guitar and Martyn LeNoble on bass.
The album was released in 1993. And I played it non-stop. That's obviously not (quite) true. But it seems the correct way to phrase it when looking back. I was obsessed with this album. Almost the perfect length at just a whisker less than 40 minutes. I bought the tape. Then bought a C90 and recorded the tape on to each side of the blank; perfect for the car. Round and round it went. The big blue Volvo and me. My hockey stick and bag in the back. Over to the park every day after school - a complete run-through of the album. Sometimes, with waiting time while parked, I got through the album twice - or more - on the one trip. (Lenny Kravitz's Are You Gonna Go My Way got some good workouts too).
Three years on, the band released Good God's Urge. I tried to like it as much. By then I was getting on with CDs but still had tapes for the car. At less than 40 minutes too Good God's Urge replaced the side-two-version of the eponymous album and I had both Porno albums back to back. But after a while I went back to just playing the self-titled debut and then rewinding to hear it again.
Tahitian Moon was the single from Good God's Urge. It was good. I liked 100 Ways (much more) and Kimberly Austin (slightly less) too - the tracks that bookended Moon. But that was really it. Nothing was ghastly about the second album but it was just more of the same while not being as good.
I've heard the odd Porn For Pyros song across the last decade, I guess. Cursed Male and Cursed Female (in that unique medley) every time I listen to The Trip. And Pets still gets a run on the radio, so I hear that from time to time. (And on The Trip 2 - which I listen to annually rather than every few months, as I do with the first volume).
But that's about it.
But it all comes back. The surprise of Black Girlfriend in the context of the album, the change of tempo. The use of timpani. And the rigid Blood Rag that follows. The closing waft of Orgasm. Not a dud track on the album.
Perry sounded more relaxed - and more real - than on so much of the Jane's Addiction material. He's more developed as a vocalist, thinking more - not just panting and shouting. Perkins is the star of the album instrumentally, his approach to groove reminds me of reading Mickey Hart's drumming books about world-groove; I think Perkins is the sound Hart thinks he's hearing when he plays himself. That surprise-cymbal sound that I mentioned on the opening track, the way it pops up and you wonder if the drummer is suddenly an octopus to be able to cope with it all. That reminds me of Ian Paice from Deep Purple, I think of Grabsplatter and Fireball straight away. Those "how did he do that" tracks.
For a long time I sat playing along to Porno For Pyros. Badly. For a long time I sang along with it - very badly - in the car. Shouting. Happy.
I've got drunk with this album. So very drunk. I've slept in with this album. Staggered around hungover with this album. Walked about town with it - back in the days of the Discman. I've travelled all over the country with it.
And now - after such a long time - I've found it. (Again.) Oh, I like Jane's Addiction. Sure. The first time around - the reunion stuff has been deeply unpleasant, best not thought about. But I love Nothing's Shocking - and Ritual de lo habitual (for the handful of good songs it contains). But I'd take the 11 songs on Porno For Pyros over anything Jane's Addiction offered.
I don't hope for a reunion of the band, I don't think about the third album that was allegedly written, never recorded. I don't intend to revisit Good God's Urge.
I'm just really glad I found Porno For Pyros by Porno For Pyros once again. And I thought I'd tell you about that.
What albums from 20 years ago - or thereabouts - have you recently rediscovered?