Album Review: Jane’s Addiction – “Nothing’s Shocking”

Nothing’s Shocking was Jane’s Addiction’s debut studio album, and it was released on August 23, 1988. While the album itself was a commercial disappointment at the time (it peaked at number 103 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart), it has since gone on to become regarded as an alternative music classic. Rolling Stone ranked the album at #309 of the magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time, and Q Magazine placed the album at #32 on its list of the 40 Best Albums of the 1980s. During its release, the album courted some controversy; the biggest controversy dealt with the album’s artwork. Due to the nudity, nine of the eleven leading record store chains at that time refused to carry it. The stores that did choose to carry the album covered the artwork with brown paper.

I have to admit that I was not familiar with Jane’s Addiction at the time this album came out. I was about to start the eighth grade that fall, and I was much more of a pop music listener in the late 1980s. My first real exposure to Jane’s Addiction came with the song “Been Caught Stealing” in 1990. My first exposure to Nothing’s Shocking came through my husband, when he purchased a copy of this album somewhere in the mid-late 1990s.

The album opens with “Up the Beach”; it’s basically an instrumental piece, with vocalist Perry Farrell throwing in some sounds and the occasional word. This song is a nice way to open an album, and it wouldn’t have worked anywhere else in the sequencing. This is followed by “Ocean Size,” and it picks up the pace musically from “Up the Beach.” Lyrically, the speaker of the song is lamenting about how they wish they were a stronger person and how they wish people wouldn’t affect them as much as they do.

Next on Nothing’s Shocking is “Had a Dad.” Musically, it’s a very driving song; lyrically, the speaker is talking about how their father has left and gone away. This is followed by “Ted, Just Admit It…,” which is the longest song on the album; it clocks in at seven minutes and twenty-two seconds. Lyrically, the song is about being desensitized to violence and to violent images; rumor also has it that the song is about serial killer Ted Bundy. Musically, the song starts out rather slow, but as the song progresses, it really picks up in intensity.

Next is “Standing in the Shower… Thinking.” Lyrically, this song seems to be about the random thoughts that pop into the speaker’s head as they’re in the shower. The music in this song really adds to the impact of the apparent randomness of the speaker’s thoughts. “Summertime Rolls” is a song where the speaker is talking about a summer that he and his girlfriend spent together. Musically, the song is rather slow and laid-back.

“Mountain Song,” which was released as single from Nothing’s Shocking, picks the pace of the album back up. Lyrically, the song is speaking about two people who were significant in Perry Farrell’s life who died. VH1 named this song the 71st best hard rock song of all time; “Mountain Song” is also one of the songs I enjoy listening to on the album. This is followed by “Idiots Rule,” where the speaker is mocking people they consider to be idiots. In addition to the usual instruments you have come to expect in one of the band’s songs as you listen to the album, horns are also utilized. The horns really add something to the song and punctuate what the speaker is trying to convey.

“Jane Says” is a song that only uses two chords, features an acoustic guitar, and also makes a lot of use of steel drums. Musically, the song is a lot slower than most of the other songs on the album; the only real exception to this would be “Summertime Rolls.” The title of the song refers to a former housemate of Perry Farrell. Lyrically, the song contains several drug references. “Jane Says” managed to peak at number six on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, and it’s by far my favorite song on Nothing’s Shocking.

“Thank You Boys…” is the shortest song, clocking in at one minute and four seconds. It’s primarily an instrumental which features finger snaps and has a jazz influence on it. The instrumentation is also rather minimal. The only real “lyrics” to the song is when Perry Farrell calls out, “Thank you, boys!” near the end of the song. The album closes with “Pigs in Zen.” Musically, this song picks the pace of the album back up after “Jane Says” and “Thank You Boys…” Lyrically, the song seems to be comparing someone the speaker doesn’t like with a pig.

While I may only personally appreciate a few of the songs on Nothing’s Shocking, I can still understand and acknowledge why the album is considered to be such and alternative music classic.


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