John Frusciante: Enclosure

John Frusciante
John Frusciante
Enclosure
Record Collection
3 out of 5 stars

Regardless what you think of the quality of the Red Hot Chili Peppers albums he played on, John Frusciante’s guitar work has been easy to appreciate. His performance on Blood Sugar Sex Magick alone has been enough to earn him a spot in the best-alt-rock-guitarist-of-the-’90s discussion. As for his sprawling and wildly varied solo output, Frusciante’s often used it to explore more left-field impulses that he might not have been able to indulge with the Peppers. It’s a catalog that includes an avant garde-leaning piece of psychedelia released in the throes of heroin addiction (1994’s Niandra Lade and Usually a T-Shirt), a year that saw four new albums (2004) and four-year-long stretches of nothing. Naturally, Enclosure is the latest in a recent interest in making synth-pop records.

That isn’t to say that Frusciante’s guitar playing isn’t prevalent here. “Cinch” is basically a 6-and-a-half minute solo buffeting breakbeats and a techno backdrop. But the guitar generally takes a backseat on Enclosure to make way for a proggy exploration of textures. As a vocalist, Frusciante is growing into his own distinctive delivery that mirrors much of the laid-back, go-with-the-flow playing that marked his contributions to RHCP. Musically, things are a lot more anxious, with the busy passages in “Run” spliced into jarring shifts, or the circus-like tilt-a-whirl on album closer “Excuses.”

Like a lot of Frusciante’s solo output, Enclosure sometimes sounds more like him working through ideas than a presentation of conclusions. But that’s often felt like part of the point anyway; with a catalog seemingly predicated on whims, Frusciante usually comes across as more interested in us tagging along for a ride than meeting him at a particular destination.