There is something pleasantly inevitable about Jane's Addiction reforming. It is, after all, what preposterous rock bands from LA do - and Jane's Addiction, for all their studied freakishness, were always utterly predictable that way.
Formed in LA in the mid-'80s, the quartet combined pretentious art-rock and stadium metal to immensely lucrative and often compelling effect, took a lot of drugs and split up. The singer, Perry Farrell, had another good idea - the Lollapalooza travelling festival - then frittered away a decade on largely daft and unsuccessful projects. The guitarist, Dave Navarro, spent a year or two in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as one must. There was a money-spinning reunion tour in the mid-'90s.
And now this rational - cynical, some might say - comeback proper. Bassist Eric Avery, historically the sensible one, has opted out. Lollapalooza has been relaunched. The band are now managed by Sanctuary, who appear to own rock in 2003, and have filled the CD booklet with billets doux to their equipment suppliers - good work, 'Dave Boonshaft & Dave Avenius @ Aguilar Amplification'.
In this context, what 'Strays' sounds like isn't terribly relevant, being the extension of a franchise which, through its dormancy for much of the past decade, is remembered more for a certain perceived mysticism than its commercial nous. The arch, whinnying Perry Farrell remains a bit of a prat - about a minute into the first song, 'True Nature', he's already "scoring points with God". But for the most part, the third proper Jane's Addiction album is a skinny, punchy, strikingly un-indulgent beast. The likes of 'True Nature' and 'Just Because' even have a formatted, anthemic quality that's closer to U2 than the countless nu-metal bands sired by Jane's Mark One.
On 'Superhero', 'Hypersonic' and the Sunset Strip funk of 'The Wrong Girl', Farrell is clearly flourishing under the new discipline, as if writing with economy and a populist impulse is a much more satisfying challenge than the misfiring experiments of Porno For Pyros. A couple of the ballads are decent too: 'Everybody's Friend', notably, overcomes its excruciating lyrics by sounding like REM in a bad tattoo parlour. New frontiers for rock aren't exactly broached, but then that was hardly the point.
Instead, 'Strays' does a job tidily. It provides some new songs to pad out the presumably excellent Lollapalooza shows, a respectable bit of product from men who are a lot less afraid of seeming responsible these days - even if Navarro is still naff enough to be dating Carmen Electra. Realistically, only fantasists would expect anything more.