At first glance, (One) seems to be a perfunctory, remarkably bland, and average side project for Dave Navarro, one of rock’s most vivid characters. Investigate any farther, though, and you’ll see a relative rarity these days: a rock album filled with pits and highs that aren’t simply marked by the rise and fall of the volume, but by every aspect of the production. The Panic Channel delivers pure rock n’ roll through and through, stopping only occasionally in between songs to give the listener a chance to catch up. Though, if the album is a narrative, by its end very few of its questions have been answered or dealt with enough to validate their inclusion in the first place. (One) is a good rock album that likely could have been great if not for lack of a solid lead single and anything resembling overall coherence in its thematic overtones.
Better known now for his on-again, off-again relationship with Carmen Electra and his prowess at celebrity poker tables, Navarro starts off (One) reminding us all that the lead guitarist for Jane’s Addiction is first and foremost a rocker, and that everything else comes second. After all, Navarro’s musical decisions outside of Jane’s Addiction (a one-off album with Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill) have always resulted in success. Former bandmates Stephen Perkins and Chris Chaney help bring along that feel, while new vocalist Steve Isaacs carries his own far better than J.D. Fortune did as lead singer for INXS. For the majority of the album, Navarro and company find the balance between rocking as hard as possible and holding themselves back, letting the chords and their resonance sing in sweet emotion. The notable exception is “Why Cry,” which is simply distant from the rest of the album. As an overproduced single, it comes off as whiny and weak in comparison to the rest of the tracks.
Far be it from me to praise Navarro simply for writing a letter for the opposition, though “Said You’d Be” is easily the finest example of such in rock since American Idiot hit the streets. Again, The Panic Channel’s lyrics are anything but subtle, but there’s a maddening ferocity within the track that’s let loose when Isaacs breaks from the song’s meter to drop “At this rate, you will make a perfect candidate for excommunication!” at Bush. The rest of the album, sans those two single-ready tracks, furthers that feeling of loss and confusion without ever making them fully concrete messages. Navarro frames those feelings in the context of broken relationships or instances of lost control in one’s life, but not even the winding, eight-minute “Night One” can wrap up all these themes and messages to give the album a solidly coherent feel.