Category Archives: John Frusciante

Automatic Writing – ATAXIA/ JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 2004


Ataxia (from Greek α- [used as a negative prefix] + -τάξις [order]: meaning “lack of order”) is a neurological sign and symptom consisting of gross lack of coordination of muscle movements.

Hm.

For some reason, all I can think of is John Fru. and co. hinting at some chronic incontinence. And really, it opens this experimental group to all sorts of cracked.com level humor. Unfortunately, as is the wont of us reviewers, I must tackle yet another of my favourite guitar player’s pet projects away from his bread (and Grammy) winning fare with the Chili Peppers. I got this disc, like the other Frusciante music, from a friend who ‘highly recommends’ it.

Meh.

All the tracks here follow but one pattern; Joe Lally (on bass, from Fugazi) lays down a repetitive, shoegazer-ish bass line, over which there are various wierded out guitar textures with some singing. What is surprising that despite this pretty bloody limited premise, the trio branch out admirably well into screeching guitar rock, stoner thingses, percussion that can only be described as spacious (a Frusciante hallmark) and some highly introspective and often doped out lyrics.

Um…aside from that I don’t have much to say. All of these five (long) tracks follow this template, with “The Sides” being the only one which follows any discernible structure. “Dust” is probably the strongest track here, with a great melody and with Frusciante singing in two very distinct voices, as if to capture the age old conversation between his artistic and commercial tendencies. Or something.

The extremely long (12 minutes!) “Montreal” is probably the more stoner oriented track here, with a couple of muted bass chords over Lally’s still more muted vocals providing proper acid-trip fodder, not in the least because of the cacophonic synth solo at around 10 minutes.

A small note. I’ve reviewed an earlier collaborative effort between Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer (A Sphere in the Heart of Silence) and there, the only tracks which I found weak were the ones on which Klinghoffer sang. The same is this case with “Another” in this album, on which Klinghoffer sings. His singing style, while distinctive, is something that I personally don’t like at all. It gobbles up syllables in what seems to be a drunken parable on some obscure topic whose meaning is very hard to discern. It is frowned upon.They're bringing stonerback.

Anyway, what must be clear to you by now, is that this stuff not for everyone. Infact, I will go so far as to say this is for nearly no one. But in the Venn diagram of the music which this album combines, the very small bunch of people who can handle a mad combination of stoner, electronica, psychedelia and god knows what else will love it fanatically. Me? I can’t help but relapse into poop jokes. This is a bit too out there even for me. Yes, Automatic Writing has its moments, but generally, it doesn’t sound right.

- El Bajista

More JOHN FRUSCIANTE reviews HERE.

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Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt – JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 1994


I hope I didn’t miss out on too much. You see, my regular headphones decided to pack up and leave town with my good music, so I’m stuck reviewing this album with the IPod’s earphones, officially the WORST listening tool ever inflicted upon mankind. And it doesn’t help that John Frusciante chose a dying cat as his vocal inspiration.

The first part is twisted, but cool

I’ll start with the first part, Niandra LaDes. This is one very stripped down album, just great acoustic guitar occasionally overdubbed. with some electric guitar leads It’s deliberately imperfect in its recording, but gorgeous in all its trebly glory. And yes, the lack of bass is disturbing, as it sometimes sounds a lot like the sounds are coming out of a radio. Even so, the tracks can be heard individually, if not collectively. Gossamer guitar work abound. The very eastern sounding arrangement of “Big Takeover” is probably the best song here, vocals notwithstanding. There is no bassline, but there is an interesting marimba like percussive guitar part that Frusciante picks out under the flighty and aggressive strumming.

Coming to production, there is not much of it here. Just a few guitars on top of each other, and the occasional piano ballad. Mostly unsupported even. Also, the recording is mostly noisy, in the sense that there is a lot of ambient room noise and hum, which is irritating. Yes, you could say that an album with such name can only be twisted in such a way. The twistedness yeilds results at times. “Running away into you” is some seriously trippy shit, with Frusciante putting strange speeding up effects on his voice, which can only make me smile at its stoned-out brilliance. It’s a must listen. Must. Listen.

Well, now I come to the crux of this album. This is definitely not for everyone. No sirree. Even stuff like A Sphere in the Heart of Silence isn’t as ‘out there’ as this. It’s a whirlwind of abrupt rhythm changes, surprising effects and mostly extremely stripped down arrangements. Though sometimes the singing is unbearable (with poetic lyrics like “Your pussy is glued to a building on fire” not helping), the flawed but beautiful guitar work covers it up (sometimes quite literally). Listen to this for avant-garde listening pleasure. In a way that would make sense in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this sounds right.

-El Bajista

Yes, more JOHN FRUSICANTE? Right THIS way.

PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC reviews HERE.


Smile From The Streets You Hold – JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 1997


We’ve all heard of John Frusciante‘s heroin addiction. We’ve also heard of that album that he put out for “drug money”, which was an utter mess. Well, this is that album. And I’m not going to review it. This album cannot be reviewed in a conventional manner. Instead, I’ll ask you this. Can you imagine singing over a basic riff without any concession to melody if, say, a loved one just died five minutes ago? Just belting it out? Can you imagine how impassioned that will sound? How free of pretence? What a god-awful mess? And how incredibly cathartic?

An amazing document.

This album radiates that sort of catharsis. His ‘singing’ sounds like he was just beaten to a pulp and then asked to sing. Like his teeth have fallen out. Like every breath hurts. No, it’s not good music. In fact, it’s just noise. But it’s still amazing because it’s a very moving document of just how badly fucked up you can get with drugs.

So, I will not bother to tell you which song sounds best. I will not tell you what effects the guitar has on it. I will certainly not tell you about the production on this thing. What I will tell you, is that for every Sgt.Pepper or Pet Sounds or OK Computer, we need one Smile from the Streets you Hold. Has there been another such extreme music in the past? I’ll say yes. Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed. Check it out on Wikipedia. In case you are wondering why its call Metal Machine Music, it’s because it really is that. It’s machines and feedback humming. The great Lester Bangs proclaimed that it was the greatest album ever recorded. Of course, I will not proclaim this to be anything like that. To do that would be pseudo-intellectual rubbish.

This miserable image of him was taken in 94. Can you imagine his state in 97?

What I do claim, is that every once in a while, we need a document that really pushes the boundaries in a completely uncontrived way. Metal Machine Music wasn’t planned. It was just winging it out when stoned. Sure, it’s not good music, but isn’t the concept just so amazingly uncontrived? Similarly, here is a man completely destroyed by his herion addiction, putting his bare emotions on the table. And I don’t mean Kurt Cobain metaphors. The lyrics don’t matter. Just hear him scream his tortured scream, cough his painful cough and cry his heart-rending cry.

Will I be coming back to hear this again? No. Then again, I might, just to see the limits pushed. I recommend anybody who has read this ‘review’ to listen to this album. Beginning to end. LOUD. Don’t treat this as music. Forget Nikki Sixx. These are the real Heroin Diaries.

-El Bajista

There’s nothing quite like this. More JOHN FRUSCIANTE reviews. HERE.

PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC reviews HERE.


Curtains – JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 2004


Has someone got an axe? A pistol, perhaps? Or maybe just a wee castration device? I just wrote what I thought was a masterpiece of a review, and then mistakenly DELETED IT! Ok, gather yourself. I’ll be the writing all this over the top of my head, from what I remember of what I just heard and typed.

Here goes……..

Curtains is the aptly titled end of a series of six albums that John Frusciante released between 2004-05, an extraordinarily fecund period that firmly established his towering talent. So what does he have on offer here? This is mainly acoustic guitar driven work, written only with six-strings, some wood, and blue sky thinking. The blue sky thinking comes in the form of Frusicante employing various methods (I will not deign to say ‘tricks’) to make an acoustic-driven album listenable in one sitting.

Brilliant. One of his best works.

He makes the intelligent choice of using additional instrumentation, but sparsely and only where the fattening up of the beat and notes provided by the guitar. is needed That means occasional drums mixed low to provided a pulse, occasional electric guitar, Melodica, Harmonica,Piano, and the delicious, fuzzy and full-throated, bottom-end warmth of an upright-acoustic bass. The electric guitar is used for high pitched melodies counter-pointing the acoustic in the beautiful ‘Hope’ and ‘The Past Recedes’ and ‘Anne’ and the like. Melodica and Harmonica provide similar stuff on songs like the gorgeous ‘A Name’.

Oh, and I almost forgot, probably the most non-singer-with-acoustic-guitar thing about this album is the use of Frusicante‘s lovely vocal harmonies nearly everywhere. It’s wonderful to see how a 12 song disc full of mainly acoustic songs is made consistently interesting to someone like me. I’m more of a fulll band kinda guy, and Jackson C. Frank-esque men-with-acoustic-guitars are mostly a weekly rather than daily indulgence for me.

But this is fantastic all through. Listen to ‘The Past Recedes’. Or ‘A Name’. Or the rythmically playful ‘Control’. Or the haunting ‘Hope’. Heck, listen to all of it. Beginning to end. Against all odds, Frusciante‘s best work out of the series of six albums in 2004-05 is the one at the end; the simplest, rawest and starkest. What a guy. This sounds VERY right.

- El Bajista

All other FRUSCIANTE albums HERE.

He is filed under PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC. Check that stuff out HERE.


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