If a list was to be drawn up of rock icons for whom there’d be genuine faith to deliver on a late-period solo album, it’d be scant but Perry Farrell would undoubtedly be among it. Ignoring the fact that the last Jane’s Addiction album The Great Escape Artist in 2011 wasn’t all that great, he and the rest of this band are arguably second to only Faith No More at popularising the eccentric, experimental nature of ’90s alt-rock, with him casting a suitably flamboyant and elasticated figure to match. The extent to which side projects like Porno For Pyros have been overshadowed only really highlights how game-changing albums like Ritual de lo habitual and Nothing’s Shocking were, with the good will that’s carried over to today being especially pertinent. It makes for a nice change of pace when there’s actually hope for Kind Heaven then; the fact that’s still the case with this being Farrell’s first proper musical endeavour in eight years is promising, but recruiting a backing band comprised of members of the Foo Fighters, The Cars and more (dubbed The Kind Heaven Orchestra for this project) seems like just the sort of madcap but generally plausible move he’d come out with.
And at the end of it all, Kind Heaven does, in fact, ends up pretty much exactly as expected, venturing into scattershot, disparate territory of all forms in a manner that feels like the product of not having the expectations of Jane’s Addiction to tie him down, and a simple desire to just do whatever he wants. It’s the sort of jam band-esque approach that does feel right up his alley (especially with the Las Vegas cultural experience that’s due to follow), and while there’s very little in the way of cohesion or consistency throughout, that ultimately feels like the point. As far as wide-ranging, all-encompassing musical experiences go, Kind Heaven feels like it hits all the right marks a lot more than it doesn’t, and offers a particularly strong showcase of Farrell’s malleability as a performer.
When that’s what’s primarily on offer here, it really does make the aforementioned fragmentation feel like a moot point overall. It doesn’t always work, obviously, and that can manifest itself in styles and sounds that don’t have quite as much going for them, like the twee jangle-pop of opener (red, white, and blue) Cheerfulness, something that similar deviations in the lyrics don’t really patch up to any great degree. On the whole, Kind Heaven is more like a compilation than anything else, paying little to no attention to how it pieces together its disparate sounds with more of a focus being on setting a general baseline of quality. And when judging it on those merits, Kind Heaven has a lot to like, and Farrell and his band are certainly capable of sliding along their musical tapestry to near enough whatever point they need to reach. The extent to which they’re able to stretch themselves is honestly rather impressive, moving between sleek, stalking industrial glam on Machine Girl to loping hard rock grooves more distinctly reminiscent of Jane’s Addiction on Pirate Punk Politician and near enough everything in between. The sense of freedom this album has is without question one of its greatest strengths, though it’s pulled off with a degree of quality control to ensure that things always stay reasonably on track. Even on something like Snakes Have Many Hips with the open theatricality of its Vaudevillian bounce paired with the sweeping opulence of a Bond theme, the throughline of Farell and his wife Etty Lau’s vocal presence holds it all together. Indeed, their dynamic shows a similar playfulness across the board, largely relegated to duets in which their immediately recognisable timbres have the room to ricochet off each other in a relatively controlled environment, but on a track like Spend The Body that’s led by Etty Lau, it shows her as an expressive performer in her own right against the backdrop of groove-heavy electronica reminiscent of Rock Steady-era No Doubt.
It only serves as yet another underline beneath the control that this album has. There’s a sense of purpose here that separates it from a project simply throwing out songs to see what sticks, and Farrell and his band prove themselves be exceptionally good at leaning into it and eking out everything they can. Not everything lands, but that’s ultimately to be expected; on the whole, for such a varied, seemingly nonsensical collection of pieces, Kind Heaven is a genuinely enjoyable listen in a way that should really be expected from an artist of Farrell’s calibre, but arrives in a way that still manages to impress. After all, there’s a reason why he’s heralded as a true great, and a lot of that evidence can be found right here.