If you think that's pessimistic, though, scan the lyrics to "Of Course": "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!" Scoot over, Aesop.

This stuff is thrillingly odd, as is what might be rock's first ode to kleptomania, "Been Caught Stealing," a current alternative-radio hit. If the PMRC ever mails the lyrics to state Senator Jan Brewer, she'll add thievery to the list of things like bestiality that you can't sing about.

Still, it's easy to believe Farrell when he's being sincere. "No One's Leaving" lets love rule over miscegenation in a way that might even make Chuck D smile: "My sister and her boyfriend slept in the park/She had to leave home 'cause he was dark/Now they parade around in New York with a baby boy/He's gorgeous!"

Just when you're starting to dust off the phrase "the new Dylan," though, Farrell dribbles out a line or two like Greg Louganis bumping his head on the diving board. For example, the lyrics of "Three Days" sound like something Charlton Heston might've uttered in The Ten Commandments.

And what can you say about Farrell's extracultural dabblings? Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Sting might have a fourth for bridge if the singer keeps up his pasty-white anthropological co-opting. Besides going way overboard on "Of Course," Farrell decks out the cover of Ritual with Santaria-derived religious objects and gets bristlingly defensive about his neo-African look in "No One's Leaving": "I'm a white dread--I'm a white dread, so?/I'm a got a ring and I hang it from my nose/Got a little game and I take it to the park/I don't care who plays as long as the game is on."

If that's just a little tough to stomach, don't read this essay from Ritual's liner notes: "I used to wish sometimes that I was a black man. I listened to the way black men spoke when they spoke about freedom, justice and human rights. And in the way they spoke, I was sure they were speaking the truth. At the same time, there was a faint buzz spreading to all of us, the suggestion that the black man was not to be treated equally. For this I envied the black man because it gave him a passion for his living and a cause to die for."

Farrell goes on to say a similar word about his former wish to be a woman, then concludes, "I have grown to become proud of myself. I have aligned with all those who have been stung by suppression."

It's this kind of stuff that leads critics to call Farrell and his quartet "great, but full of shit" and "talented assholes."

And "full of shit" is the only thing that can be said about Farrell's decision to design a second cover that would co-exist with the Ritual's controversial original jacket when some Warner Bros. prudes said uh-uh to the first. The goody-goody version features a white background with the First Amendment printed on it. Farrell rationalizes this way in a press release: "I will never compromise, ever. I will only extend. I will only do something additional."

Still, you can't blow off Farrell for eyebrow-raising comments or being a backpedaling businessman. We need him--to make us laugh, to entertain us, spar with our consciences and, yes, even to show us his ding-a-ling once in a while.

Jane's Addiction will perform at Celebrity Theatre on Sunday, November 4. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Farrell will go down as rock's goofiest punk-hippie, a singer given alternately to grandiloquent philosophizing and exposing himself. The lyrics to "Three Days" sound like something Charlton Heston might've uttered in The Ten Commandments.

JA isn't one of those groups that changes the course of musical history. But it's sure nice to listen to while we wait for the next genius over the horizon.

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