Jane's Addiction: Ritual De Lo Habitual - Album Of The Week Club review

Ritual De Lo Habitual became the first ‘alternative’ record to sell a million, inspiring a generation of bands who would ultimately kill the idea of ‘alternative’ stone dead

Ritual De Lo Habitual cover art
(Image: © Warner Records Inc)

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Jane's Addiction: Ritual De Lo Habitual

Ritual De Lo Habitual cover art

(Image credit: Warner Records Inc)

No One's Leaving
Ain't No Right
Been Caught Stealing
Three Days
Then She Did...
Of Course
Classic Girl

One of the defining albums of a decade that was barely eight months old when it was released, Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual was the sound of a band hauling themselves out of the darkness of the LA club scene and spiralling skywards into the light.

There’s a clear demarcation between the album’s first and second half. It’s front-loaded with songs that are funny, feral and frantic: the limbs-akimbo energy of Stop, defiant outsider-punk call-to-arms Ain’t No Right, immortal breakout single Been Caught Stealing, with instantly recognisable dog-bark intro (courtesy of Farrell’s rescue pooch Annie) and promo video that perfectly encapsulated the chaos the world Jane’s Addiction inhabited.

But it was Ritual’s second half where Jane’s put clear water between themselves and their peers. Three Days is the album’s glorious turning point, a shapeshifting, sexual/spiritual 10-minute meditation on the nature of life and death which stood as a tribute to by Farrell and Niccoli’s friend and sometime-lover Xiola Blue, who died of a heroin overdose in 1987 at the age of 18. 

Other bands would have left it there, but Ritual had more to give: the porcelain-delicate Then She Did… (inspired in part by Farrell’s mother, who died when he was three); the hypnotically slo-mo, klezmer-music inspired Of Course; the sparkling Classic Girl.

Ritual became the first ‘alternative’ record to sell a million copies in the US, inspiring a generation of bands who would ultimately kill the idea of ‘alternative’ stone dead.

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Other albums released in August 1990

  • Blaze of Glory - Jon Bon Jovi
  • Bellybutton - Jellyfish
  • Pornograffiti - Extreme
  • Bossanova - Pixies
  • Eaten Back To Life - Cannibal Corpse
  • Time's Up - Living Colour
  • Tyr - Black Sabbath
  • Against the Law - Stryper
  • Detonator - Ratt
  • FireHouse - FireHouse
  • Persistence of Time - Anthrax
  • Facelift - Alice In Chains
  • The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken - REO Speedwagon


What they said...

"Ritual De Lo Habitual served as Jane's Addiction's breakthrough to the mainstream in 1990 (going gold and reaching the Top 20), and remains one of rock's all-time sprawling masterpieces. While its predecessor, 1988's Nothing's Shocking, served as a fine introduction to the group, Ritual De Lo Habitual proved to be even more daring; few (if any) alt-rock bands have composed a pair of epics that totalled nearly 20 minutes, let alone put them back to back for full dramatic effect." (AllMusic)

"The great bits here – gypsy fiddles, Aladdin Sane piano flurries, strange lyrics about crickets’ bones and an erotic Jesus – are overwhelmed by meandering vocal melodies, orchestral keyboards and David Navarro’s rote guitar wanking. Two-thirds of the way through, Ritual De Lo Habitual starts sounding like a fourteen-hour layover in Kashmir, a long-distance runaround with only Juggs magazine and a pack of purple Bubblicious to pass the time." (Rolling Stone)

"It rambles, it’s murky, it features a long, vaguely Oriental violin solo. But Ritual is also oddly compelling, sort of an art-rock tour de force, and some of the sing-song melodies and images in the lyrics – Farrell’s brother making him slap himself in the face, a girl shoplifting a razor by sticking it under her skirt – stick with you for far longer than you think they should. Plus, Three Days has the longest crescendo in rock history. (LA Times)


What you said...

Greg Schwepe: In my early formative music years, my tastes were about as “Standard Classic Rock” as they could be. When I went to college and got involved in our campus radio station, I learned all about “college radio.” “Wait…what’s all this stuff I’ve never, ever, heard of?”

So, I gained this other wing of my musical house where I was willing to check out and investigate something that wasn’t played on your everyday FM radio station; new wave, punk, avant garde, anything a little different than the normal “Hey, let’s ROCK” stuff I listened to. And then we get to the “90s Alternative” stage and Jane’s Addiction were one of those “different” bands I’d check out.

Say what you want about how MTV changed music for better or worse, but I probably wouldn’t have checked out Ritual De Lo Habitual if it wasn’t for the video for Been Caught Stealing. Catchy song and funny video. After watching a few times I bought the cassette at my local Camelot Records (now defunct chain here in U.S!).

Ironically, Ritual starts with Stop. Spoken word intro in Spanish, then we get a microcosm of the whole album; loud frenetic guitar, stop/start sections, flowing, swirling segments, and more loud guitar. Guess loud guitar is the common denominator for me across all genres of music. If it’s got that; I’m in.

No One’s Leaving follows up with a bouncy bass line and more of Dave Navarro’s guitar. At this point you’re either OK with or can’t stand Perry Farrell’s high shrieky vocal style. No problem for me as I’m a Rush fan, and he sounds a little like the “Alternative Geddy Lee” at times.

Aint’ No Right and Obvious follow with the same vibe. Then we get to the aforementioned Been Caught Stealing. That one has the appeal that would draw in the “No, I’m Really Not Into This Kind Of Music” crowd. You find yourself singing along to this toe-tapper and then you get a wah-infused Navarro guitar solo. Again, that loud frenetic guitar.

And after Stealing the album takes a turn. Three long songs in a row, unlike the shorter ones which would have been on Side 1 in the old days. Three Days, Then She Did…, and Of Course all clock in at around 10, 8, and 7 minutes respectively. Songs that build slowly, gain momentum and have longer instrumental sections. Then She Did… even features some Kashmir-like strings. Jane’s can do both the “short thing” and “power thing.” Three Days builds into a chugging section then flows out into Navarro’s ringing guitar.

Jane’s Addiction initially didn’t last much past this album. Maybe Perry Farrell was more interested in putting together a new rock festival. If you had to list the albums that stood out in that era, you’d want to include this one along with ones by Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 8 out of 10.

Chris Elliott: Loved this album back in the day. Been Caught Stealing like for many was the initial hook - still a great track.

The album starts well - Stop is a great opener - next few tracks are less great and more indie self indulgence - but Been Caught Stealing onwards is something to treasure.

Mike Canoe: It all started out so well. When Jane's Addiction rumbled up out of LA's underground scene with Nothing's Shocking in 1988, it sounded like something entirely new. They blended influences as far apart as Led Zeppelin and Joy Division and Bauhaus, then infused it with a weird and artsy LA punk vibe. In the very divided '80s music culture, here was a band that both hard rockers and the underground scene could get behind. To these ears, Nothing's Shocking is still a perfect album.

It all started out so well. When I first saw the music video for Stop, I thought, "Oh my God, yes! This album's going to be even better!" The song was great, the vibe was cool, the band looked amazing, the crowd looked like something I wanted to be part of. Been Caught Stealing proved that this incredibly cool band also somehow had a great sense of humour.

And then... and then... the rest of the album (with the exception of Three Days) felt phoned in, a pale imitation of past glories. This time it seemed like there really was nothing shocking. What had neutered this spectacular band?

It all made sense when I read Brendan Mullen's Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction. If the goal is to live the life of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll; history shows that at some point the drugs are going to push the other two out of the way.

And so it was with Jane's Addiction during the making of Ritual De Lo Habitual. Guitarist Dave Navarro, who was mainlining heroin while also going to a methadone clinic, is quoted as saying that he remembers about five minutes of making the album.

Bassist Eric Avery, who was trying hard to stay clean, was constantly at odds with singer Perry Farrell, who seemed to be trying even harder to stay "dirty." It got to the point where the the only way to get things done, was to have Avery and Farrell record their parts separately. Apparently only drummer Stephen Perkins managed to stay above the fray.

Producer Dave Jerden mentions that the recording of Three Days was "one magical day" when he managed to get them all playing in the same room together. I could hear the difference before I knew why there was a difference.

So, for me, Ritual De Lo Habitual is Stop, ...Stealing, Three Days and a lot of sadness about what might have been. The initial Lollapalooza tour followed (with Avery and Farrell still not talking) and ended with a metaphorical tour bus breakdown in Splitsville. Jane’s Addiction ultimately spent what could have been their decade watching the alternative nation they helped create from the cheap seats instead of the main stage.

John Davidson: Not really my cup of tea. Even in 1990 I was 'too old for that funk stuff'. It's not that it lacks talent or energy (quite the opposite), but it doesn't speak to me in a musical language that I understand.

Ian Marples: Light years ahead of what anyone else was doing - saw them live in 90 touring this album, a total classic from start to finish.

Jacob Tannehill: Right up my alley. I grew up during this time. Probably the bridge between me listening to hair metal and classic rock, then discovering this, and aggressiveness, to melodic turns. Stop, Classic Girl, and Three Days are absolutely masterpieces. A little more precise and cleaner playing and they could have been progressive rock classics.

Michael Harley: It’s not my thing…. but I worked for Camelot Music when it was released and it was a BIG DEAL. We sold the hell out of it. It’s enjoyable and I don’t knock their music. Its just not in any of my lanes.

Tom Kendrick: Then She Did is exquisite.

Jayney Jayne: I love their sound, vibe and vocals of this band. They've always been part of my go-to play list and as live performances go they were and are wild. It was a messy affair being at the front of one of their gigs, I can tell you!

Lloyd Bolster: Three Days is a classic, brilliant song

Steve Pereira: An astonishing, landmark album. I was at university when I encountered this, but a mature student, in my thirties with children, so not the target audience. But, though the album paved the way for Nirvana and alt-rock and alt-metal and funk-metal and all things strange and wonderful to come, it is at heart very much simply an old fashioned rock album with the soul and thunder of The Doors and Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop, though with the added depth of progressive music and the considered production of bands like Pink Floyd. 

A strange yet compelling mix. There's rock, metal, prog, funk, and pop; but it's not a mess - it harmonises together organically as though it's of course meant to be that way. There's ambition, inventiveness, sexuality, playfulness, art, all in abundance, and yet always energetic, focused, driven, and above all, very melodic. The ingredients are complex, but the finished sound seems so simple and obvious.

It opens with a sparse incantation in Spanish that is exotic, erotic, disturbing, and revelatory - the words roughly translate as "ladies and gentlemen, we have more influence over your children than you do, but we love them… bred and spread in Los Angeles: Jane’s Addiction!" then kicks into the first of five energetic Nirvana-like rock numbers - the teen scream of angst, confusion, rebellion and contradiction that Cobain caught so well is here: "Here we go! No! Lit to pop and nobody aint gonna stop!" Farrell shouts and screams, Navarro lights up his guitar like a heavy metal teen rock god - screeches everywhere, impatient, full of bluster, while behind the vocal and guitar screams the rhythm section of Avery and Perkins hold the whirlwind together and drive it forward. 

Like Zeppelin and Nirvana, the band use light and dark, fast and slow, aggression and tenderness, alternating and combining to produce something breathless, exciting, transcendental that pauses seductively before crashing into a Stop! that then tumbles straight into another high energy number, No One's Leaving, also riddled with pauses (some false) and Navarro's screaming guitar. Then there's an odd interlude, playful, sinister, challenging of huge, spacy ska drums and bass with Farrell riffing off Ian Dury's Sex And Drugs And Roll & Roll, like some psychedelic Hackney sound system out of control, before going back into the maelstrom of steel edged razor sharp guitars and screeching teen philosophy - "Ain't no wrong now, ain't no right. Only pleasure and pain." 

And before you settle into the song, it's over, Ramones-like (without the Ian Dury intro it lasts just over two and a half minutes), and we're into Obvious, a reggae tinged number loaded with sonic atmosphere, the slowest, longest, most gothic track on the first side, before launching into the minor hit (charting in UK and Australia, and Number 1 on the US Modern Rock Tracks) Been Caught Stealing, which won the MTV Award for Best Alternative Video. The track includes random barking by Farrell's dog, some earthquake deep bass lines, and the by now trademark guitar screeching and yelled lyrics; it is probably the simplest, poppiest, and most accessible track on the album, which is no doubt why it succeeded as a single. 

The first side ends - it's been a storm of a ride: exciting, melodic, adventurous, creative, and it has rushed passed in a blur of colour and noise. The band are tight, confident, edgy, and skilled. Is it perfect? No. The lyrics are suggestive, interesting, and mysterious, though feel like incomplete scraps, and there's no memorable image or phrase. Navarro's heavy metal screeching guitar starts to feel somewhat limited and possibly a bit empty and meaningless after a while, though the rhythm section is strong and somewhat inventive. But it is hugely likeable because the whole is very much better than the parts.

We move on to Side Two. Whereas Side One was fast and brash with short tracks, the longest being just under six minutes, Side Two is more considered with longer, more engaging tracks, the shortest being just over five minutes. It opens with Three Days, a melodic and compelling near 11-minute ballad concerning a ménage à trois; in musical structure, atmosphere, and topic matter, it initially has aspects in common with The Byrds Triad, but around four and a half minutes it starts to broaden, first with a more considered screeching guitar solo from Navarro that is more concerned with tone and atmosphere than had been the case on Side One where the guitar licks were more about speed and aggression. At 7 1/2 minutes, after a series of chord chops over a Satanic drum and bass, there is a cry of "Erotic Jesus" and the track opens out even more taking us back a little way to the style of Side One - light and dark, loud and quiet, soft and hard. It's a compelling and somewhat draining piece. Quite magnificent. 

Then we move into the most melancholy piece, Then She Did... - a slow, string-laden study of pain and loss with dark images of the death of Xiola Blue, one of Farrell's lovers in Three Days, so an interesting juxtaposition. Of Course is a slow, haunting piece about Farrell's older brother making Farrell slap his own face, driven by the timeless gypsy violin of new age jazz musician Charlie Bisharat. The album finishes with a piece of chiming guitar pop, Classic Girl.

Though there is a unity of sound on the album, there is considerable variation between the songs and the approach on Side One to Side Two, and there are those who only like one of the sides, and may even hate the other side. For a single album it has the richness and depth of a double, and reminds me in ways of Screamadelica, of Exile On Main Street, and of The White Album. And it can stand next to those albums in terms of range, ambition, creativity, and achievement.

Iain Macaulay: To start off, no, this album is not better than their previous album, Nothings Shocking, to me that is the real classic Janes Addiction album. But there is no denying that Ritual is a truly fantastic album and a captivating listen, and maybe a classic in its own right. What Ritual did, more so than Shocking, was capture the zeitgeist perfectly for when it was released. Particularly due to the video for Been Caught Stealing’ and late night MTV. A track that is arguably the worst on the album. It’s definitely the sunniest compared to the ones that surround it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the band. They are stunning live. These three amazingly talented musicians, and immense lyricist and frontman, craft a magical experience and a singular musical vision with some of the most intelligent and left of centre songs to be included in the rock cannon. They fuse the most disparate of non straight Rock influences, such as goth, psych and indie, something no one was doing at the time but which many bands do now, and create rock songs that have crossed genres and scenes, helped by Dave Navarro’s exceptional mastery of rock guitar. 

There is atmosphere, there is power, there is grace, there is sing along, and there is music to get lost in, and sometimes in the one song. There are even some clever recording techniques used, such as the un-plugged electric used on Been Caught Stealing. And it can never be said that the songs all sound the same. To get the best of this album you need to listen to it in one sitting, that is when it really makes sense. Because it is a real album, not a collection of singles. So, sit down, pour a drink, relax and listen from the introduction to the last notes of classic girl. It’s a rewarding listen. You won’t be disappointed.

Brian Hart: Janes Addiction was my first intro to alternative music. It was just a little early to the party in 1988 as grunge and alternative didn’t rise to prominence until 1991-92. I revisited this gem today and it is every bit as good now as it was back then. This album is really kind of split into two halves. From the opener Stop up to Been Caught Stealing, this album is the quirky, SoCal punk we’ve come to expect from Jane's and it rocks! 

It’s the last four songs that Jane’s channels it’s inner Zeppelin. Those last four songs ooze of middle eastern and world music influence and Jane’s owns it. Three Days is Jane’s best song ever and I always thought this song should’ve closed the album. The thing that really popped out to me was bassist Eric Avery’s playing on this album. His playing pops on this album and producer Dave Jerden does a great job capturing his playing. Ritual is Jane’s Addiction’s finest hour and in my opinion a top 10 alternative album.

Bill Griffin: There is only room for one band with novelty vocals in my world and that band is Primus.

Mark Herrington: I’d never heard this album before , so good to hear something new.

First couple of tracks were ok and reminded me of early 80’s Bow Wow Wow (Wild In The Country) with their fast, new wave vibe. Stick with it and the album really hits its stride and improves from track four, Obvious onwards, when the tempo slows and the music expands, and continues in this vein, track after track to the end .There are elements of the Cocteau Twins and the Cure evident here, married with a rockier core . Ritual wears its influences well though and combines them with its own distinctive sound. I like good alt rock, epic albums, and this is certainly one of those that rewards repeated listening. Will sit well alongside my copies of Arcade Fire‘s Funeral, Smashing Pumpkins‘ Mellon Collie… and The Cure Disintegration.

Highly recommended and a great album overall 9/10

Uli Hassinger: Man, that’s weird shit. Wanted to listen to this album for years because the music press regularly point out how influential this album is. I didn’t expect something like this.

It’s hard to categorise this album especially because it consists of two totally different parts. Part one is songs 1-5. This is like Red Hot Chili Peppers on speed or a funky version of Mudhoney. The last four songs are instead hippie psychedelic rock. You can hear a lot of Alice in Chains shining through. Both parts have their charm.

When I had to pick put some songs it would be Been Caught Stealing from the more punky part and Of Course and Classic Girl from the psychedelic part. Altogether it’s a 7/10.

Brian Carr: I listen to A LOT of music, but I’m not sure off the top of my head if I could think of any artist that is similar to Jane’s Addiction. Singer/ringleader Perry Farrell is more of an artist than a singer, which means I would likely lean towards not liking Jane’s much at all, but when Nothing’s Shocking was released, it was incredible. Artsy, yes, but enough killer guitars, spectacular bass lines and excellent songs that it is still in my personal top 20 or so albums of all time.

If I remember correctly, the first tune I heard from the follow up Ritual De Lo Habitual was Stop! Here we go, indeed! It made me quite excited to hear the full album. Ultimately, the listening experience didn’t quite live up to the expectations to the point that I haven’t listened to the full album in years.

My return visit was pretty consistent with my memory. The side one songs are solid and followed up with the epic Three Days. For me, the Ritual lost its mojo at the end: the extended tracks Then She Did, Of Course and Classic Girl just never moved me - not upon its release and not 30 plus years later. They aren’t horrible or annoying songs, they just don’t live up to my first Jane’s love.

Michael Saulle: They were on the cusp of something huge with this album, and then they decided to disband after the very first Lollapalooza festival. I always felt that the rest of the 90s would’ve belonged to them if they had stuck around a little longer.

Shayne Ashby: Their best. (Nothing's Shocking is right up there too). Can't think of a band like them. They definitely brought their own unique thing to a scene that maybe wasn't quite ready for them. Excellent musicianship all-round with some great lyrics from Perry.

More mellow than Nothing's Shocking with some long songs that just keep on rewarding you as you dig in. Fave song: Then She Did.

Unfortunately they split, but we got Porno for Pyros which I love. Never reached the same heights, but I loved the more slickly produced rock of Strays.

Melissa Buckwell: I love this record! Finally saw them live in London 2002 (I think) and they were so worth the wait.


Final score: 7.91 (103 votes cast, total score 815)

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