John Frusciante

Record Collection, 2014


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


“Shining Desert,” the opening cut off guitarist John Frusciante’s newest solo album, is one of the most ominous songs of the last few years, hands down. It could be used during a long sequence in a horror movie, its muted, spooky guitar solos and wheedling organ fills marching toward a sense of foreboding doom over an off-kilter electro-pop beat. It recalls Robert Fripp of King Crimson in the playing; it is difficult to believe this is the same guitar player who played “Scar Tissue” a decade ago.

Would that the rest of Enclosure followed the same sort of bold adventurous spirit, but the other eight songs quickly devolve into the avant garde, oddball experiments with sound, meter and dark singing that just barely cohere as songs. The end result is a fairly irritating collection that belongs alongside any of Frusciante’s other oddball solo albums and will piss off pretty much everyone except college potheads and record shop owners who delight in playing weird stuff. (Side note: Remember record shops? We had a cool one in East Lansing, Mich. named after a Frank Zappa album. I miss those days).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On one hand, it’s tempting to praise Frusciante for following the sound in his head and eschewing all commercial aspirations, because this is about as far from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as you can get. It’s not badly played – he’s too talented for that – but the songs focus more on mood and playing around with sounds than on any sort of structure. The overall mood is fairly grim, somewhere near a Black Sabbath album with hints of King  Crimson, lasting far longer than the 35 minute or so run time.

But on the other hand, there is no way anybody will want to listen to clanking, incoherent, noisy jumbles like “Run,” “Fanfare,” “Cinch” and “Sleep” more than once. “Zone” tries for an amalgamation of Motown, trip-hop and goth rock and fails miserably, featuring a false ending halfway through the song and about four more left turns than necessary.

Only on “Crowded” does the potential for this project come through again after “Shining Desert.” Another trip-hop beat and some decent singing propel the song, with Frusciante’s multi-tracked solos encircling each other to the song’s long fadeout. A lot is packed in to three minutes, but this time it works. “Excuses” isn’t too bad either, but by then it is too little too late.

Progressive music is by nature polarizing, and music history is filled with experiments gone wrong as well as albums that tried to be weird on purpose just for the sake of doing something different. Unless you seek out the avant garde and/or love Zappa and King Crimson in equal measures, this album should probably be given a wide berth save for that opening track and maybe “Crowded.”

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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