John Frusciante The Will to Death

[Record Collection; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: alternative rock, prog-rock
Others: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Mars Volta, Syd Barrett

John Frusciante has always been a unique soul who has persistently captured the hearts of his fans, both with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and as a solo artist. I'm a pretty big fan as well, but I sometimes find myself needing to be in the right frame of mind to fully enjoy his music -- especially his very early solo work, which is undoubtedly some of the most difficult and painful music to endure.

I absolutely loved To Record Only Water for Ten Days. In fact, it was one of my favorite albums of 2001. So needless to say, I had pretty high expectations for Shadows Collide with People. But I was sadly let down by the approach that was taken with its content. Part of John's charm is that he always opted to go the opposite direction of the RHCP to lean towards a more lo-fi production quality. To Record Only Water for Ten Days, in particular, was layered with a multitude of odd-colored textures and beautiful lyrics. Shadows simply didn't compare.

To my surprise, though, I became aware that Frusciante was going to release six (seven if you include Shadows Collide with People) albums this year. Well, holy shit! I couldn't wait to hear them all. Especially since I figured it'd be at least three years before I'd have the opportunity to hear new material from John. Characteristically, he has only recorded one solo album per every RHCP album, and with the RHCP taking several years to prepare new material... well, you get the point.

So here we are with the first in a line of many new albums to come, The Will to Death. Upon reading the bio information on John's website about the inspiration for this album, I couldn't help but feel that this was the precise direction for him to go; at least it's the direction in which I wanted him to go. Frusciante, along with multi-instrumentalist friend Josh Klinghoffer, wanted to make The Will to Death sound as though it was recorded in 1971. Using only a 16-track recorder and the flow of life, the two recorded the album in a very short period of time. While not trying to dismiss this album by any means, the songs hint at some very good things to come.

Upon entering the first few songs of the album, it's clear that it's not another lo-fi album, but it's also not shiny and glossy either. Unlike most of John's solo material, there are more instruments in the mix here, including guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, etc. Additionally, the guitar work is some of John's most mature to date, and his keyboard adds a welcome progressive-psych element somewhat similar to the way he played with To Record Only Water for Ten Days. Klinghoffer makes a point to stay extremely consistent with his drumming. Oddly enough, it's one of the highlights of the album, particularly due to the fact that John only used synthetic drums on a large portion of his previous material.

While fans may be undecided about this new album, I can't help but be a little anxious to hear what else John has in store for us. This is undoubtedly a stronger effort than Shadows Collide, and maybe that's due to John's ability to just let the music fly instead of attempting to overwork things. My only hope is that he continues to both enlighten us with his influences on these albums and that he keeps plugging away at making his own style of music.

1. A Doubt
2. An Exercise
3. Time Runs Out
4. Loss
5. Unchanging
6. The Mirror
7. A Loop
8. Wishing
9. Far Away
10. The Days Have Turned
11. Helical
12. The Will to Death

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