Skip to main content
Loading...

Featured Post

Amazon's Black Friday Sale Begins: See What's On Offer

Amazon's Black Friday Sale is finally here. Here are some of the best deals on now.
We've had our fingers poised over our keyboards long enough in anticipation of Amazon's Black Friday Sale, which went live at midnight and will last until 25 November.

John Frusciante - To Record Only Water for Ten Days Music Album Reviews

John Frusciante - To Record Only Water for Ten Days Music Album Reviews
Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today we explore the haunting and beautiful 2001 solo album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante.

Before John Frusciante could afford to get high, he had to just read about it. Born in Queens, New York, to musician parents and raised in California by his mother, the guitar prodigy spent his childhood poring through books about rock stars, particularly David Bowie. Often, he went straight to the index to find the parts about cocaine. “I just thought David Bowie did his coolest stuff when he was on a lot of coke,” Frusciante explains during a haunting 1994 interview, in which he appears gaunt and ghostlike and strung out on heroin. “That feeling and that image is the whole reason I got into rock’n’roll in the first place,” explains the 24-year-old, who looks so much older.

Frusciante let this interviewer into his home to discuss Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt, his stark, impressionistic solo debut after quitting the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the height of their success. His departure seemed inevitable. He was a kid—only 18—when he was asked to join his then-favorite band, and his interests were expanding. He was learning about art. Maybe he wanted to be a painter. Hard drugs were becoming a dominant part of his life. All of this, he felt, was starting to clash with the world-famous funk-rock group he believed was becoming increasingly commercial and ridiculous. The incongruence seemed clearest when he was forced to do press alongside all-id frontman Anthony Kiedis. “If I say ‘Van Gogh, blah blah blah,’ and he says, ‘Whip out your cock and show it to my mother,’” Frusciante elaborates, “You know, it doesn’t go together.”

The discrepancy between Frusciante and the sex-crazed rock band that launched him to fame can sometimes be overstated. In most respects, he fit in well and he shaped the sound of their most iconic period. His primary influences—art rock, post-punk, prog, electronic—are defiantly at odds with the radio-friendly alternative sound RHCP built their name on. But his contributions to the band are inextricable from their very core. Anyone with a vague familiarity with the band at its peak will recognize his voice—the background “awws” and “whoas” that sound like a man attempting to approximate a foghorn, the moan that sounds like a lonely pedal steel filtered through a wah pedal.

Frusciante zeroed in on the Chili Peppers’ sadness, the void perpetuating their desperate fun. With his background vocals and deeply emotive guitar playing, he could expose these moods so that, for a certain listener, it was all you could hear. He had that same quality that let Johnny Marr elevate Morrissey’s totems of self-deprecation into something empathetic and eternal; the same skill that allows Gillian Welch and David Rawlings to find the dissonance in each other’s pastoral lullabies. He heard something in his bandmates’ playing and he knew how to amplify it. Frusciante’s most distinctive contributions—say, the riff in “Under the Bridge,” or his vocal harmonies during the second half of “Otherside”—suggest the work of a born accompanist, a voice best suited as part of a whole.

As much seemed true when he quit the band. You can hear flirtations with brilliance on his two solo records from the ’90s: Niandra Lades and 1997’s Smile From the Streets You Hold, a collage of lo-fi recordings dating back to his teenage years. At the time, he claimed he was making this music to balance out a lack of “real art” on the market (like Da Vinci, or Jimi Hendrix, or Jane’s Addiction, he explained). Years later, he would change his story, claiming he released them solely to fuel an out-of-control drug habit.

Some songs on these records do in fact feel clear-headed, even inspired, and they point a clear path toward the work to come. Yet the overwhelming atmosphere is decay. Listen casually and you will hear a voice straining and choking, melodies fumbling, ideas stretched out way too long or abandoned almost immediately. Listen closely and you will hear even harsher sounds—a body falling apart, wallpaper peeling, light dwindling.

While Frusciante will always be known as a guitar virtuoso, his best playing feels like a voice speaking to you one-on-one. If you were an adolescent who picked up a guitar around the end of the ’90s, his songs may have been the ones you learned to play. On his comeback record with the Chili Peppers, 1999’s blockbuster Californication, he found resonance in simple chord progressions and minimalist, almost fragile soloing on the highest strings—things you could try to replicate after a few hours of practice.

In 1998, when he was brought back to life by the doctors at Las Encinas Recovery Center, with a new set of teeth to replace the ones that rotted away from drug abuse and with skin implants over his abcessed arms, Frusciante approached this simple style as a guiding philosophy. “I’m not into being a guitar hero,” he said in 2001. “I like guitar players who are more clumsy and more awkward... and who are trying really hard.”

To Record Only Water for Ten Days is the first album Frusciante made after recovering from drug addiction, getting clean, and rejoining the Chili Peppers. The title of the 2001 record refers to a form of self-purification he envisioned, involving the body as a tape recorder that documents only what’s absolutely necessary. Its sound, distinguished by gauzy keyboards and the sharp plinks of a vintage drum machine, was inspired by electronic music, a growing interest he treated like a secret affair in order to stay focused on his day job with the band. “Because if I listened to electronic music and then I went to rehearsal,” he said, “Everything sounded so boring to me.” In these songs, you hear him find joy in recreating the claustrophobic atmosphere of his ’90s solo albums in a way that felt more controlled, more sustainable.

Even at their most polished, Frusciante’s solo records elicit a feeling of eavesdropping—hearing music that itself seems to be just on the verge of existence. It’s a quality they share with certain posthumous collections: I think of Elliott Smith’s New Moon or any other set whose appeal lies in the intimacy, the occasionally unsettling familiarity of its presentation. Are we supposed to be hearing this? Do they know we’re listening? He rarely performs live, so Frusciante’s legacy outside the band lives within these records—stories you can return to over and over again without cracking their code.

Like Harmony Korine’s 2007 film Mr. Lonely, another return from a nearly fatal addiction, To Record Only Water concerns itself with weighty topics but expresses them through seemingly disconnected visions so even the most blunt confessions feel as distant as a mostly-forgotten nightmare. “All paths divide,” he sings in “Invisible Movement.” “Life has a way of opening up.” Much of his writing proceeds in this way, somewhere between warnings, words of advice, and riddles. Explaining his lyrics, Frusciante claimed to write mostly from the perspective of the afterlife: “After you die, you’ll be hearing people saying stuff like the stuff I say on my record.” For now, we’ll have to take his word for it.

More than his lyrics, Frusciante’s songs find coherence in his performance. The ones collected here are among his most gripping. His low, slurring voice sometimes sounds like Cat Stevens and sometimes sounds like Michael Stipe, and, although imperfect, it’s an instrument he wields with confidence. The record begins with a scream. In “Going Inside,” he filters a primal cry to make it sound indistinguishable from his silvery guitar tone, blurring the line between his modes of communication. It introduces a record where nothing is what it seems. Familiar alt-rock conventions are compressed into a burbling rhythm cycle in “Away & Anywhere,” and softer moments like “Wind Up Space” feel bruised and off-kilter, like a discarded verse from an old pop standard looping on a locked groove.

“The First Season” stands among his finest achievements. The song’s first half, a jangling psych-folk ballad like something from Neil Young’s debut, spans less than two minutes before funneling into a persistent, climbing finale. “Be humble, take it the slow way,” he reminds himself. And when his voice breaks as he shouts “I keep holding on to myself,” you hear what he might have been attempting on those harrowed old home recordings: a document of survival that highlights the struggle over the outcome. Now he had gained the ability to reflect on it with hindsight. He sings like he’s rescuing the song from a dangerous place.

Where even the most concise Chili Peppers songs seem sanded down from jam sessions, Frusciante’s new work felt refined and disciplined, like it could be performed by nobody else in no other way. Some songs are genuinely carefree and fun (his new wave experiments like “Someone’s” and “Moments Have You”) and others are salvaged from his darkest years (“Saturation”). But the mood remains consistent, a dream of life that keeps regenerating from itself.

It’s a highlight in his catalog, but To Record Only Water is not his peak. Soon, he would sharpen his production (2004’s Shadows Collide With People), his songwriting (2005’s Curtains), and his vision (2009’s The Empyrean). He worked tirelessly, as if making up for lost time. A 2005 music video for a song called “The Past Recedes” offers the inverse experience of that troubling 1994 interview. He appears genuinely happy in a gorgeous home filled with natural light, massive CD shelves, and acoustic guitars. He calls up a friend. He hangs by the pool. He carries himself like someone who’s figured out how to be alone. Soon, after one more massive album and tour cycle, he’d quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers for good and follow his muse, away from the public eye, deeper into his own world.

John Frusciante’s career sometimes seems like a long life in rock’n’roll enacted in fast-forward. If he was drawn to make music through the paranoid mania of Bowie in the ’70s, he also got to experience all those less glamorous years—the genre exercises, the unlikely collaborators, the short-lived supergroup, the eras of wild prolificacy and those of disquieting silence. There’s a consistency to his music that can cast nearly any of his albums as your favorite. They all speak to a larger portrait, one that you can see best when you admire from a distance.

In 2015, Frusciante had to make something clear. “Obviously,” he wrote in a blog post, “I have a public audience. I am aware of them, and they know who they are.” The statement arrived in response to a recent article that quoted him denying he had a fan base anymore, a claim that understandably offended his devoted following. What he meant to say, he explained, was that he now makes music with no audience in mind. That is, he satisfies himself, caters to no one, works for the simple joy of bringing ideas to life. “Thinking this way,” he wrote, “Gives me a certain freedom and stimulates growth and change.” He signed off, “Thank you all for existing.”

Despite the irony in an artist breaking his hermitude simply to affirm to his fanbase that he knows they exist, his words ring true. Working mostly without major label backing and remaining too prolific for any one record to crossover, Frusciante established a path comparable to cult-level indie figures like Simon Joyner or Jason Molina more than the rockstars and festival headliners he came up with. It might be the modern version of the withdrawn artistic existence he once dreamed about. And if his evolution resembles a ghost story, it’s one at least with a happy ending. The introduction to his second life, To Record Only Water offers a humble kind of inspiration: Start again, get stronger, and disappear on your own terms. It’s what I learned from listening to Frusciante’s records, and what he learned by living through them.

View the original article here

Comments

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Loading...

Popular posts from this blog

Amazon Echo Plus (Second-Gen) Review

The second-gen Amazon Echo Plus is shorter, louder and better-looking than ever. What's not to like? Here's our review.
Should I Buy The Amazon Echo Plus (2nd-gen)?
The new Echo Plus offers a radical redesign compared to the original, ditching the plastic body for a fabric mesh housing that helps the speaker blend into the home environment. It’s not only better-looking either, as a larger speaker and tweeter provide improved audio quality and Dolby Play 360 audio support helps fills the room with music. What’s not to like?

Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Review: The Best Cheap Fitness Tracker Money Can Buy

The Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is the best cheap fitness tracker we’ve seen. Read our Mi Band 2 review to find out what’s new in this excellent-value budget activity tracker.
Should I Buy The Xiaomi Mi Band 2?
With a new OLED screen the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 offers better value than ever. We’d like to see better integration with third-party apps, but at this price the Mi Band 2 is impossible to fault.

Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse Best-Value Activity Tracker Review

You will not find an activity tracker that offers better value than Xiaomi's Mi Band Pulse. We put the upgraded Mi Band to the test in our Xiaomi Mi Band 1S review.
Should I Buy The Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse?
With a tougher band addressing our issues with the original, and a new heart-rate sensor bringing it into line with rival activity trackers, you quite simply won't find a better-value fitness band than the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse. It still falls down on social interaction, apps and its use of a proprietary charging cable, but given the price we can accept these shortcomings.

Does Amazon's New FireTV Stick 4K Do It All

HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos... Yup!
It seems like every year a new format comes along to make all our "old" gear obsolete. For audio video afficionados, those latest formats include Dolby Atmos immersive sound, and three different flavors of High Dynamic Range for enhanced picture quality. The three HDR flavors currently on the market include HDR 10 (the most common), HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ promise better picture quality than standard HDR 10 by using something called "dynamic meta data." Basically they're able to shift around the required storage bits on a scene-by-scene basis to get the best dynamic range out of movies and TV shows that are encoded in the format.

Apple MacBook Air 2018 vs Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Review

The MacBook Air has seen a major redesign, but how does it compare to the excellent Surface Laptop 2? We find out and help you choose which one to buy.
Should I Buy The MacBook Air (2018) Or Microsoft Surface Laptop 2?
These two laptops offer plenty of features and aesthetics that make them desirable. If you’re a Windows fan then buy the Surface, otherwise the new MacBook Air is a solid workhorse.

Like Fan Page