Critics have long touted Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ guitarist John Frusciante as an incredible talent. The VH1 Behind The Music program introduced Frusciante’s story to mainstream America, as millions watched his tale of sinking into the depths of drug addiction and rising back to the heights of sobriety. But his latest CD, To Record Only Water For Ten Days, tells a story no one-hour TV documentary can possibly even begin to tell. It is a story about life, a story about mistakes and triumphs.
John Frusciante’s many talents are expressed in several ways on this CD. Nobody needs to be told that he is an excellent guitarist. However, this CD is an eternity away from his punky, funky past. The vibe on this record can be described as dreamy. It is as if Frusciante is still in his small Hollywood apartment completely strung out on heroin, and we are in that smoky room listening to him play his guitar and sing. Several songs are reminiscent of the Beatles and the Doors.
This is not the type of music you blast on Friday night while downing drinks getting ready to hit the clubs. This is the kind of CD you play on a Sunday morning, while sipping coffee. The songs are peaceful and introspective in nature. His amazing guitar feats are complimented by creative and melodic background noises, ranging from a tambourine to a flute. One negative is that the drums sound manufactured, as Frusciante has obviously opted to utilize the services of a drum machine rather than a true, breathing drummer. Nonetheless, Ten Days is a masterfully written collection of retro-sounding, yet timeless, music.
John Frusciante is able to pull off a wide vocal range, from a deep Jim Morrison to a high Robert Plant. But even more than just the pitch of his voice is the pure emotion that is put into every lyric. It is without question that Frusciante doesn’t just sing these songs, he feels them.
Beyond being a great singer, John Frusciante is nothing less than a poet. His lyrics, although incomprehensible and incoherent at times, reveal a truly inspiring and beautiful message. Topics include sadness: “Fading away your nights/ You fade to white/ You lay me down as I go to the store/ Sorrow ate me, I’m not me anymore,” happiness: “I’m floating and it’s every dream I’ve ever had/ And I’m so happy and sad,” love: “Fall out of love again/ Your dreams all end,” death: “It shows me I must live to die/ This lake is on fire/ It’s been every dream to me/ It’s been every desire,” and loneliness: “Leave my lonely mind a cell/ I keep holding on to myself.” The lyrics are of such a high caliber; they may be worth the money by themselves.
Knowing the story of John Frusciante explains where he got the topics for this epic recording. A California native, he dropped out of high school and dove into the L.A. punk scene as a teen-ager. Although he mainly listened to bands like Black Flag and The Germs, Frusciante was also inspired by the likes of Frank Zappa and Steve Vai. When he was 14, he was introduced to the music of the Chili Peppers, and fell in love. After developing a friendship with the band’s bassist, Flea, Frusciante was asked to join the group in 1988 at the age of 18. His music was featured on the their breakthrough album, Mother’s Milk, as well as their wildly successful Blood Sugar Sex Magic. However, the pressures of success proved too much for Frusciante, who left the band in 1992 at the height of their career and descended into the now well-documented abyss of heroin abuse. During this time, Frusciante released two solo albums, admittedly created for drug money. These works were hailed by critics but ignored by just about everybody else, and the two albums, just like the man who wrote them, quickly disappeared into obscurity. It was an L.A. Weekly reporter who located Frusciante thin, pale, mentally deranged, and on the brink of death in his home. This reporter’s haunting article prompted a response from friends, who checked the fickle artist into rehab. Frusciante emerged from treatment a new man, and with a positive outlook on life. As he was piecing his life back together, he got a call from his old band-mates inviting him to a jam session. The Chili Peppers’ guitarist at the time, Dave Navarro, had split from the band. Frusciante accepted the offer, and things went so well that the four men once again began writing songs together. The outcome of this beautiful chemistry was the 1999 Chili Peppers release, Californication, which has gone multi-platinum.
Sober and healthy, Frusciante has found new ways to deal with the ups and downs of life. He gets up and does yoga every morning, and he spends much of his free time painting (many of his works are currently on display in Los Angeles). However, Frusciante has not forgotten about his tumultuous past, as is evident on his new CD.
– Rikk eLhaj