Perry Farrell: The Worst Lyricist of Our Time?

Jane’s Addiction has yet another new comeback out, which The AV Club promptly awarded an F.

In his review, Jason Heller chafes at Perry Farrell’s line (used nonironically), “You sit around there telling stories / taking chips for old past glories,” which is obviously a psychotic accusation from a band desperately trying to recapture their own past success.

Heller reminded me of something: Perry Farrell is inept at writing lyrics.

Perhaps the title of this post is a tad hyperbolic — Farrell surely isn’t the worst lyricist of the last 25 years. He can’t be worse than Scott Stapp, or whatever Stapp staffer actually writes Creed’s “lyrics.” He can’t be worse than Ke$ha. But in terms of artists that actually matter, of bands that were actually, you know, good — Farrell sets the standard.

Because we were all young in Jane’s Addiction’s heyday, and because the band mattered to us, we imbued their songs with meaning. We assumed that because we also listened to R.E.M. and Nirvana and Yo La Tengo that Jane’s Addiction must also have deep, important songs with words that spoke to our troubled hearts and times. We were wrong.

Pig mounts sow
When he’s wound
Pig’s in zen
Pig’s in zen
Pig eats shit
But only when he hungers
Pig’s in zen
Pig’s in zen

Talkin bout the pig
The pig
The pig – uh
Goddamned pig

Oh, I know about war
But I just wanna fuck
I know about pain and suffering and being cold
But I just wanna fuck

Stripped of musical accompaniment, Farrell’s naked lyrics just look and sound and are so so so bad.

I’ve been caught stealing;
once when I was 5…
I enjoy stealing.
It’s just as simple as that.
Well, it’s just a simple fact.
When I want something,
I don’t want to pay for it.

Ugh. It’s like Farrell’s brain stopped developing when he was 14 and he’s obsessed with and torn between juvenilia and hormones.

When I was a boy,
My big brother held on to my hands,
Then he made me slap my own face.
I looked up to him then, and still do.
He was trying to teach me something.
Now I know what it was!
Now I know what he meant!
Now I know how it is!

I loved and still love Jane’s Addiction, but it’s hard to listen to these songs now without being blown away by how terrible the lyrics are. And that’s just Jane’s — we haven’t even discussed the regrettable Porno for Pyros experiment yet.

Farrell’s work on Pyros contains what I believe is the dumbest lyric ever:

I got the devil in me
It’s just a cloud
It’s sadness

…and also the dumbest full song of lyrics ever:

Children are innocent
A teenager’s fucked up in the head
Adults are even more fucked up
And elderlies are like children
Will there be another race
To come along and take over for us?
Maybe martians could do
Better than we’ve done
We’ll make great pets!
My friend says we’re like the dinosaurs
Only we are doing ourselves in
Much faster than they
Ever did
We’ll make great pets!

Oh, the insight! The depth! Jane’s has a well-earned reputation as a great live band, and I’d probably see them even now, even after these past two albums. But I would probably hope that the total volume would drown out the particulars of what was coming out of Perry Farrell’s mouth.



Filed under Music Has AIDS, The Dilemma

9 responses to “Perry Farrell: The Worst Lyricist of Our Time?

  1. R

    Wow. I don’t see stupid lyrics, I hear sexual abuse from more than one source.

  2. But I didn’t end up here because of you, I ended up here because there was mention of Mr Farrell. If it took you this many years to notice Perry Farrell is a bit of a weirdo, this band probably isn’t for you.

  3. Anonymous

    Just a terrible, terrible band. Awful!

  4. . . . art for art sake . . .

    One shouldn’t compare Basquiot to Rembrandt, or Mapplethorpe to Michelangelo. Artists are all different; some prefer to create with gut feeling, some trained technique, both or neither. Weather you are good at the particular form is open to interpretation, because art is subjective.

  5. dan nichols

    opinions. who needs them?

    where are your songs buddy?

  6. Fred Mertz

    Dropped my phone and that break away from responding to your silliness reminded me that your desk drawers remain tidy. Look, boldness has no place, has no business being anywhere unless all the ugly gets equal billing. It virtually can’t be! Christmas everyday, life in space without acceleration/decel . Whatever Barry, its nighttime and I want to go outside, and Perry, thank you so much for your approach and the sincerity and deciciveness in your lyrics and thank you for the inspiration! Sorry you don’t hear it Geoff, but you jump off the fuckin high dive for all I care

  7. Fred Mertz

    What a bold little door stop you must be. I mean, gosh damn. A screw, so shiney proud of your proper thread dimensions, specs well withen tolerance and varifiably listed “work ready” by McMaster/Carr. ~ Go home pigeon.
    Lyrics written without any conceived apprehension. Everything must go; stuff you’re self conscious about (white dude less likely but likes to ball), the self-effacing (YOU scream out load and without music how pointy YOUR nose is). How it feels to be in love on a Tuesday in May and all its volume (100 ways ~ NOT 1000) and my most favorite of all, the pondering things, the evaluation Boldness is in bus

  8. Anonymous

    Noooo, they’re analogies…come on, man!

  9. Lauren

    To me I love janes addiction !! But some people don’t and that’s fine with me . Perry Farrell is a great artists and song writter it’s easy to under stand lyrics if your a song writter yourself . what i am saying is makeing music is hard and comeing up with lyrics isn’t so easy so try being him for a day and come up with better lyrics to sing … And when you make a song it not just anything u sing about it’s about what you feel .

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