Perry Farrell former leader and messiah of the L.A. band Jane's Addiction and all-around alternative-rock shaman and showman didn't name his new band Porno for Pyros for nothing. The sight of his town igniting in flames after last year's Rodney King verdict seems to have left him literally hot and bothered. ''Ever since the riots, all I really wanted was a black girlfriend,'' he croons dreamily on the band's first album, Porno for Pyros (Warner Bros.). In another song, he gets sexually aroused watching the flames consume parts of Los Angeles.
Farrell disbanded Jane's Addiction at the height of its popularity, and early scuttlebutt had it that he wanted his next band, formed with ex-Jane's drummer Stephen Perkins, to be edgier and more experimental, worlds apart from the lumbering, Zeppelinesque swagger of Jane's Addiction. When that band, Porno for Pyros, made a few unbilled appearances at last year's Lollapalooza '93 tour, the music bore out the rumors. Before hordes of worshipful fans yelling ''Perry!'' Porno for Pyros played what could only be described as vaguely Middle Eastern-influenced art rock-imagine mantras sung on a roller coaster, with Farrell's taunting whine rubbing against the whole shebang.
Porno for Pyros the album doesn't sound quite so exotic. If anything, it sounds even sludgier: Guitarist Peter DiStefano's airy chords have replaced the four-wheel-drive riffing of Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction, and Farrell's nasal voice is half buried in the murky instrumentation. ''Murky'' could, in fact, describe the entire album. Yet Farrell uses that sound to his advantage. Jane's Addiction may have hinted at the excess and ennui of a city and a generation, but Porno for Pyros truly brings it all home; the result is the most compelling album Farrell has ever made.
Starting with its references to the L.A. riots, the album posits the world as a nightmarish place that is nonetheless too fascinating to leave (or stop listening to). Everything on Porno for Pyros sounds squalid and back alley, be it sex (the slithering ''Orgasm'') or just going for a walk along Venice Beach (''Bads---''). Farrell isn't too optimistic about humanity, either: ''We'll make good pets,'' he muses in the languid ''Pets,'' wondering whether aliens from outer space could do a better job managing Earth. Grinding wah-wah guitars and clanky, trash-can-style drumming heighten the creepy-crawly atmosphere. Unlike too many pat alternative records, this record sounds like one of those amusement-park tunnel rides where you never know what's around the next corner.
In a larger context, Porno for Pyros couldn't have appeared at a better moment. At a time when Daisy Chainsaw is plugged on an episode of Roseanne and corporate ''postmodern'' rock bands like School of Fish are glutting the record bins, alternative rock doesn't seem very alternative anymore. Farrell is partly to blame for the situation: Jane's Addiction was an arena act by the time it disbanded, and Farrell himself co-organized the lucrative Lollapaloozas. On Porno for Pyros, he sounds as if he realizes what he hath wrought and, in his own messianic way, is trying to reactivate the adventurous underground spirit that once defined the genre. Call it Jane's Withdrawal. B+