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.



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