John Frusciante's solo career

22:54, Jul 22 2014

The best thing John Frusciante ever did was leave The Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was such a good idea he did it twice.

Frusciante was a member of the band during their first wave of massive success, his guitar a crucial ingredient, part of their strange brew of funk flavours. As time goes on I think that band more and more absurd - I struggle to hear what I once heard in them, but I can't deny that I was a big fan of their material pretty much up to and including Californication. 

I had time for the records without Frusciante - I'm one of just a handful of people prepared to admit that I liked One Hot Minute. In a weak moment I might bend for some of the early pre-Frusciante material too but beyond an annual listen to Blood Sugar Sex Magik - still largely fantastic if you concentrate on the efforts of Frusciante and in particular drummer Chad Smith but also still really silly - I'm totally done with the Peppers.

They died for me when By The Way - which should have been called By The By - was delivered in all its lacklustre non-glory. I couldn't even give Californication the time of day now, it's just Frusciante circling back around over his familiar licks. Worked at the time, we missed them, we needed him back - they needed him back. But these are grown men, still almost-finding sex and penis euphemisms, still mastering the single-entendre, still name-dropping L.A. It's dull. And tired. And whatever funk-shtick they once had, though never in any sense real, is completely gone.

But anyway, I've told you all before I'm done with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That remains the case.

I'm newly enthused about John Frusciante's solo records though. It's hard to keep up. But right now he seems to be on a buzz that's rivalling his very busy period of around a decade ago. New album, Enclosure features more ideas than most people can summon in a career. The splatter-paint approach might scare a few people off but that's good - the big, dumb fun approach of the Chili Peppers is insulting to your intellect. Or at least it should be.

Frusciante's had his battles - drug addiction, mental health - he's had to go back and patch up ruined musical relationships and busted friendships. He's had to face his past as a music-maker, had to reconcile the success of that band where he made his name and the experimental nature and control-freak status of his solo works. He's been prolific in his pursuit of freedom as a solo artist - freedom to release whenever and whatever, whilst still linked to the major label game and the standard distribution forms. Freedom too, genre-wise, bustling along into hip-hop and electronica and then back to sensitive singer/songwriter material - playing out the guitar hero shtick from time to time too. He's both serious-minded avant-garde/ish composer and goofball improviser. He's madcap and utterly sincere. He's that artist where it might be wise to pick and choose, being very selective. Or it might be just as smart to dive in - take the plunge, soak it all up and try to understand it all as some giant, strange body of work.

I've opted for that. Just lately anyway.

I'd sorta forgotten about Frusicante's energy and approach, his prolific nature. I followed all of his releases around 2004/5 and I was a fan of his earliest solo albums, particularly 2001's To Record Only Water For Ten Days and 1994's debut, Niandra Lades and Usually Just A T-Shirt.

But then I sort of let it all go. Nothing really stuck and stayed with me. Until I heard 2012's PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone; one of the first albums I reviewed for my Off The Tracks site as it happens. And then there have been recent side-projects too, including Black Knights' Medieval Chamber.

Quite what he'll do next is - as always - anyone's guess. But I'm newly enthused. And I'm far more interested in hearing him flop than I am in hearing the Chili Peppers almost redeem themselves.

What about you? What do you make of Frusciante's solo career? Have you heard his latest? And do you have any favourites from his solo career?

Postscript: I'm not sure what your thoughts are on crowdfunding - I'm not even sure what my own thoughts are on crowdfunding for that matter. But I wanted to share the link for Shayne Carter's new album. Money is required for him to finish it - and maybe you'd like to help. You can see it as pre-ordering a copy, that's the best way to view it. Perhaps share this link about on your own social networks and help spread the word. Carter's done enough for music in New Zealand to deserve a bit back. That's my view. 

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