GOING INSIDE

When it comes to choosing albums to write about, I’ve noticed a few trends. One—previously mentioned—is the difficulty in writing about a really special, favourite record. Something about the meaning, the importance, the desire to communicate the specialness; these somehow inhibit my fingers.

At the other end of the spectrum are those artists only known via one or two releases. How could anyone be presumptuous enough to write about an album when they have so little context? Cries of ‘Fraud! Imposter!’ echo in the distance.

While I continue to struggle with the first of these challenges, I want to engage with the second. After all, with a room full of music and more decades of listening than I care to enumerate, there is plenty of comparative ground. What’s more, I would be doing only what I constantly invite readers to do: try something new and/or different.

So here goes.

My knowledge of John Frusciante is negligible.

My knowledge of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the band he played guitar in, is close to zero. Don’t own one album, never even heard a track. I think the bass player, the one with the insect nickname, is Australian, from Melbourne I believe. But I’m not sure.

So how, by all that’s ignorant, did I come to not only buy, but thoroughly enjoy John Frusciante’s 2001 album To Record Only Water For Ten Days? How come I’ve played eight times in a month?

Blame a chance article and an impulse purchase.

Pitchfork is perhaps the most eclectic on-line music magazine I’ve encountered. Their weekly ‘in depth’ articles aim to go beyond the norm and feature a lesser known album, and that’s fine by me. After all, that was a start-up goal of Vinyl Connection.

A while back they featured To Record Only Water For Ten Days. A week later I was browsing the secondhand CD shelves at one of Melbourne’s record shops, and there it was. Clean and simple and eight dollars.

Kismet.

There’s a simplicity, a stripped back visibility to Only Water that transcends periods and styles, despite the heavy use of a vintage drum machine. Guitar is often acoustic, basic. (Not always, though. ‘Ramparts’ is a gorgeous 65 seconds of picked electric).

The vulnerability of Frusciante’s voice is engaging and often touching (eg: ‘Saturation’) but sometimes also powerful and strong (opening number ‘Going inside’). Great range too. Keening falsetto on ‘Wind up space’ and gravelly baritone on ‘Away & anywhere’ (which sounds like Dire Straits driving a rusty pick-up truck).

From the Pitchfork article I learned that he’d not been having an easy time with fame and fortune.

In 1998, when he was brought back to life by the doctors at Las Encinas Recovery Center, with a new set of teeth to replace the ones that rotted away from drug abuse and with skin implants over his abscessed arms, Frusciante approached this simple style as a guiding philosophy. “I’m not into being a guitar hero,” he said in 2001. “I like guitar players who are more clumsy and more awkward… and who are trying really hard.”

The ‘trying’ on Only Water is revealed in the light, deft sonic touches. Some synth here, a touch of electronic organ there. It’s thoughtful and pleasing. So are the songs; intimate, contained. There’s a kind of ragged hope permeating the album, fifteen songs wrapped in humble ambition: keep it simple, do the best you can. 

Not bad advice, really.

 

Answers for the 60s Album Cover Quiz are now in the Comments under the post!

25 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Lovely little ditty. I like that you somewhat-boast about not having heard the Red Hots. I had a nice little bout with them when I was quite a bit younger thank you very much, and got enough in a short span of time. Have to hand it to them in a sense, if commercial success is something you can slap one on the back for, for being somewhat punk and off-beat and earning that. Complex discussion perhaps but I’m glad for them. More freaks in the ‘mainstream,’ everybody wins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bill.
      ‘Freaks In The Mainstream’ would be a fabulous post title. Just need to think of an album to fit it! Something by The Flaming Lips, perhaps?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Sounds right up Wayne’s alley.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So, not only water, then? But misleading, Mr. Frusciante.

    On a serious note, I haven’t listened to the RHCP in many, many years. There was a time when I got a lot of enjoyment out of their music, but then I thought “mnah”. I do still rate their sole album with Dave Navarro very highly, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t comment on RHCP, J. But the songwriting on this is interesting and well considered. And the sound isn’t even remotely rock/punk/funk. More introspective and at times spectral.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No water, though. Or maybe that’s where the spectral vibes come from?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Could be. The Pitchfork article addressed the album title but I don’t recall what the explanation was. (There’s a link in the article if you’re curious).

          Liked by 1 person

        2. It was something to do with self-purification and the body being a tape recorder documenting only what is necessary. It would have been quite a bit different sounding if it was a record only of water, huh?

          Anyhoo, did I say you got me a interested in the album? No? Well, you got me interested…

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I think I have a CD of a river. Shall I send you a copy? 😁

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Excellent! I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that Springsteen’s double album contains songs.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. LOL.
          Thanks J. You’re sending me to bed with a big smile.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Instead of heckling, I’ll call out more supportive names!
    I enjoy reading reviews when an artist fits in your ‘new-to-me’ category, especially when it’s an artist I grew up with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s an interesting experience, isn’t it? And I’m very happy to have provided you with a return experience, Mr 1001!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Frusciante’s earlier solo record, Smile From the Streets You Hold, is also worth a listen. It’s far more ragged and painful than To Record Only Water, but there’s some sort of primal truth to it that I admire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK. Thanks for the lead.

      Like

  5. Personally I think knowing an artist’s repertoire in it’s entirety is overrated. I know of plenty of great records where I have no desire to hear anything else because I know it would be a disappointment. I will certainly check this one out ( but no more! )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. Moulty!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello there. The Chili Peppers are hugely popular, yet I too knew nothing about JF. A few minutes ago I read about him in Wikipedia. He had two stints with the Peppers. He has released a very large number of his own recordings. And he has been voted one of the greatest guitar players ever.

    Who knew?

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Music. Endlessly fascinating and surprising.
      Thanks for sharing the fruits of your research, Neil!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good sales job Bruce. And I loathe the RHCP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking of picking up a cheap s/h cd to try them out. A mate said he had done just that, and liked ‘4 or 5 songs’. I though, ‘That’s not enough’. But I did genuinely enjoy this, Joe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve read interviews with Frusciante and he seemed intelligent and interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Those two adjectives suit this album pretty well. Nice three-word review, Joe!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Waiting for Kismet at Hervey Bay. (Meaning: you got me interested and that this tourist’s itinerary may include a bit more focused op-shop browsing).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Op shops are quite good for CDs at present. People seem to be discarding as they transfer music to hard drives. Good hunting DD!

      Like

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