February 22, 2001

Not Red Hot

Print More

Were you one of those people who, when One Hot Minute was reaching platinum status, still wondered “Where the hell are the Red Hot Chili Peppers?” The fact is that for a while, namely between the albums Blood Sugar Sex Magic and Californication, the ever-so-funky kings of cool lost their funk. Not surprisingly, between those two albums the Chili Peppers’ ace guitarist John Frusciante was also missing. But the absent guitarist suffered more than the band h e left behind; Frusciante spent those years teetering between revered artist and opiated addict.

Yet even while his former bandmates feared for his life, Frusciante managed to practice for a rumored fifteen hours a day. He even self produced two solo albums. Since that time, though, Frusciante has gone sober, rejoined his former band, helped RHCP secure a sort of Second Coming, and produced another solo album, this one called To Record Only Water for Ten Days.

If his first two solo albums were overly conceptual and intangibly artistic, his third is the product of attempting to quell that criticism. Imagine the voice of your kid brother in the car trying to sing along with Bob Dylan, but playing the guitar like… well, John Frusciante.

The fact is that Frusciante’s guitar has a distinct prescence, and lifts the album to a height that his voice and lyrics shouldn’t even attempt to reach. To Record is at its best in “Ramparts,” an instrumenta, and “In Rime,” where Frusciante highly distorts his falsetto tone so it sounds like something other than his voice. To that end, he uses the vocals as a disonant instrument, but that does not mean it adds positively to an album driven by an overwhelming number of disonantly mixed instruments.

For example, “Wind Up Space” sounds as if it were recorded completely through the fuzz setting of an amplifier. Fortunately, the music behind the vocals in other songs is slightly more subtle. “Murderers,” arguably the album’s best cut, features an acoustic guitar under a brilliantly structured series of riffs: this is the Frusciante that one expects upon buying the album. This is the Frusciante that performed for only twenty minutes to win a spot with RHCP.

Unfortunately, this is also the Frusciante whose album continues into the next song “Invisible Moment” with a dizzying sparsity that seems to be en route to come unglued by the song’s end. And while some listeners may consider his lyrics “deep” and “really far out,” the lyrics actually disintegrate into a fluffy stream of conscious in almost every song. In “Someone’s,” Frusciante postulates: “Someone’s waiting to fly with me/ Someone’s saying goodbye every time she says hello/ Cuz they both connect no one with somebody.” And contrary to pop culture’s conventional wisdom, strings of specious non-sequiters are not something that constitutes poetry. In “Remain,” he sings: “And when you reach that point/ You’re a wall/ And when you bleed sight/ You receive a call.”

This sort of opiated imagery attempts to carry the album, but it is ultimately the masterful guitar and the album’s well planned rhythm tracks that save it from destruction.

Archived article by Ari Fontecchio