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Off the Wagon

Sometimes, the best reason for a reunion is no reason at all. What else can explain the recent reconvening of alt-rock progenitors Jane's Addiction -- other than, of course, greed, which is a charge returning members Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and Steven Perkins vehemently deny. As they should, seeing as how none of them has exactly been suffering career problems since the band's abrupt breakup in 1991. Decadently enigmatic frontman Farrell went on to preside over the first few Lollapalooza tours (a festival he founded) and to assemble Porno for Pyros with drummer Perkins. Navarro, meanwhile, jammed his ax into the spokes of the ever-revolving lead-guitar post in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, where he's remained since 1993.

As it happens, the former member who has the least-impressive post-Addiction credentials is the only one who decided to have nothing to do with reliving the past. Co-founder Eric Avery, who paired briefly with Navarro in Deconstruction and performs in his own little-known outfit, Polar Bear, declined to join up with his former bandmates. Given his reticence, it seemed only natural for the other three to bring in Chili Peppers bassist Flea (who can claim some ties to Jane's Addiction, since he played horns on "Idiots Rule" from the group's 1989 debut, Nothing's Shocking). Still, cynics would have to assume that the speed with which tickets were gobbled up for recent Addiction shows in New York and Los Angeles had at least something to do with the continuation of what began as a fleeting notion when Navarro and Flea guested on the latest Porno for Pyros release.

Whatever the reasons behind Jane's Addiction's sort-of-reunion tour and corresponding Kettle Whistle CD, few can argue that the L.A. band didn't leave behind some unfinished business when it expired at the apex of its commercial success. With its wind-tunnel histrionics, uncompromising punk-metal sound and risque cover art, the group's second studio release, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, cruised to gold status on the combined momentum of its music and the group's controversial on-stage (and off-stage) profile. Fans seemed positively orgasmic over the prospect of more elaborate and inspired mayhem to come, but a little more than a year later, Jane's Addiction halted their party, marking the occasion with a final concert in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 1991.

Now, six years down the road and scores of frail imitators later, it hardly feels like Jane's Addiction ever left. While the handful of "new" tracks on Kettle Whistle are nothing to crow about, many of the old demos sound as relevant and fresh as the day they were recorded; in a few cases, they're more hard-driving and succinct than the finished versions. Kettle Whistle tracks culled from a 1990 performance at the Hollywood Palladium more than attest to the group's volatility live, and to the way Farrell was able to hold it all together using the thinnest thread of his own humanity-mocking wit. A dependence of that sort can be hard to kick, so why not forgive Jane's Addiction its latest relapse, settle back and let the impermanence of it all overwhelm you?

-- Hobart Rowland

Jane's Addiction performs at 8 p.m. Monday, November 17, at Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas. Sold out. For info, call 629-3700.

Two Tons of Steel -- This San Antonio quartet is one of the leaders of Texas's small but flourishing rockabilly scene. The group, formerly known as the Dead Crickets (they changed their name as a favor to one of Buddy Holly's Crickets, Jerry Allison), has won Band of the Year awards three years running in the San Antonio Current's reader polls. Though some of the older songs they chose to cover are less than inspired ("Good Rockin' Tonight," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Red Hot"), their originals run an impressive gamut, from the dreamy, swamp-inflected "Havana Moon" to the scorching rock of the band's namesake tune, "Two Tons of Steel." Two Tons qualifies as a bar band, no doubt. Still, bad times are a rarity when these guys come storming into town. At 9 p.m. Thursday, November 13, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3620 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. 869-COOL. (Jim Caligiuri)

Ani DiFranco -- A troubadour in the best sense, Ani DiFranco could be one of the decade's last great word-of-mouth phenomena. She refuses to play by corporate rules, releasing CDs on her own Righteous Babe label and attempting to play every pool hall, college cafe and festival this side of her native Buffalo, New York. She sings for the lonely and the disenfranchised, leaving them with plenty of audio companionship for the hard times. And for an artist who tours as much as she does, DiFranco still manages to tweak her material a little each night out, as she veers adeptly between long jams, creative scatting and spoken-word poems, all the while blathering on about her bandmates, her current pet peeves and what made her write the tunes. With a new CD due out early next year, DiFranco will likely be running through some new songs. But don't be surprised if you can't recognize them when they finally do make it to disc. At 8 p.m. Saturday, November 15, at Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas. Tickets are $19.50 and $22. 629-3700. (Carrie Bell

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