For the uninitiated and those who are currently feeling the tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, John Frusciante is Red Hot Chili Peppers’ former guitarist; the one who led them through some of their greatest funk hits before he went away in 2009. But there’s more to Frusciante than just the riffs he churned out for the Chili Peppers. He also served as guitarist for progressive psychedelic rock band The Mars Volta from 2003 to 2009.
Since then he’s focused his efforts on his solo music, releasing his 11th album, which is as delightfully weird as its title: PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. Frusciante says the title alludes to his creative process of song writing. If we are to believe that, then this album is as vague as it is enjoyable. It will probably take several listens to understand, though, and a trip back to his previous EP Letur-Lefr, which sees Frusciante go beyond his usual solo style of psychedelic music meant for long nights and dark rooms.
On Letur-Lefr and PBX, Frusciante doesn’t have the usual alternative rock chords or walls of sound droning from his guitar. Instead, he chooses jumpy drumbeats and rap vocals from Kinetic 9 (on ‘Ratiug’). The electro sounds may put the listener off but what probably makes them stay is Frusciante’s eclectic vocals, ranging from croons to soft whispers and unbelievably deep sounds on songs such as ‘Bike’, ‘Mistakes’ and ‘Uprane’, which leap at the listener with a fast beat and a chaotic mix of guitar and synth.
The only song with any semblance of traditional alternative rock, familiar to fans of Frusciante’s solo work, is ‘Ratiug’, a half-ambient, half-hip hop mash up. The song that follows, ‘Guitar’, is an instrumental filler with a nod towards its reversed preceding track. The last two tracks are ‘Sam’ and ‘Sum’, which is Frusciante’s way with titling songs. Often, they are interconnected. But knowing the flow – or lack thereof – on this album, ‘Sam’ is dark and explosive with frenzied electro drumbeats; while ‘Sum’ comes across as a drum and bass remix of any of Frusciante’s earlier songs, containing a familiar wail of guitar lead solos.
Frusciante fans will be delighted to see him get this experimental but, for castaways from Red Hot Chili Peppers, listening to PBX will be a risk. If they survive it, there are 10 other solo Frusciante albums that they need to visit.
Bottomline: As vague as it is enjoyable
PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone; John Frusciante, Record Collection