Music Reviews

Feb 022005
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

John Frusciante, "Curtains"

New Folk From Chili Peppers Guitarist

John Frusciante was with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the early '90s and carried them through their albums "Californication" and "By The Way" after Dave Navarro left the band after 1995's "One Hot Minute."

After almost dying from drug addiction in the starting days of the RHCP, Frusciante left the band and went off to recovery. His brush with death and his struggles with personal ambivalence and relationships have given him enough force to create solid and recognizable music, both with RHCP and as a solo artist.

For fans of his past two solo albums – "To Record Only Water for Ten Days" and "Shadows Collide With People" – "Curtains" will meet expectations, but for fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers who have never heard Frusciante alone, don't expect the sounds you'd hear on a Chili Peppers album.

Frusciante as a solo artist is almost entirely folk-oriented, and the funk and fusion, as well as the hard rock, elements of the Chili Peppers are absent from the guitarist's work. His voice will be easily recognizable, being that he was the harmony behind Anthony Kiedis' vocals, but his poetics and lyrical content will differ almost entirely from his work with the Chili Peppers.

In order to appreciate Frusciante, listeners must drop any sort of comparison to the Chili Peppers and listen to him as an entirely different sound and energy. "Curtains" has its fair share of guitar work, but its lacks the pop-percussive and otherworldly sounds of his last album, "Shadows."

The song "Tim Tonight" has fitting pianos with rewinding string orchestration, and "Ascension" has some of Frusciante's best vocal harmonies on the album.

Frusciante's emptiness and uncertainty in life are the prevalent messages and subject matter on "Curtains," which is just another reason that his solo music is separate from his band work. If lax singer/songwriter music is in your collection, then Frusciante will be a nice addition, but for fans of the Chili Peppers' energy, you can only hope for another album to come soon.

Ani DiFranco, "Knuckle Down"

The female world of musicians is powerful, but as far as popular female music is concerned, the power is not in the hands of the ones holding a guitar. Ani DiFranco is one of the few who have managed to build a huge following in the indie-rock scene via touring and staying grass-rooted in her funky-punk-folk sound.

She is the artistic cross between hippie and punk minds, and her sound is caught between her soft voice and her violent, slap-guitar picking. She can be called a radio reject or the screaming voice of female musicians, but one thing is clear, she hasn't broken or turned away from criticism, for she is Johnny-on-the-spot with a full-length album almost every year.

"Knuckle Down" is the Ani that fans are used to, bouncing back and forth from spoken word/slam poetry to jazzy, Victor Wooten-esque guitar styles all layered in her original singer/songwriter personality. On the song "Modulation," a slightly Nora Jones-sounding tune, DiFranco sings of a lover who helped to set her free, and "Seeing Eye Dog" is slow-paced vocal journey about someone who walks her through her obstacles. "Lag Time," is Ani showing off her guitar and vocal acrobatics, and "Parameters" is a piano track laced with the bitter spoken words of Ani's unique metaphors about growing older. Fans of the John Butler Trio, Sarah McLachlan and Erykah Badu should check her out if they've never heard DiFranco, but for long-time fans, don't expect anything but her usual.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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