- John Frusciante, November 3rd, 2008
Any Peppers fan will know this man's name instantly. He joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers as their guitar player when he was just 18. He played on Mother's Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, left the band for some time (during which the band released an album with Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction fame) before coming back to do three more albums with them.
But, it's not RHCP I want to talk about here. Throughout the years, in fact from 1994, John has written and released over 10 solo albums, and they are very, very unique.
He is reportedly working on a new album to be released this year, but his last album, The Empyrean, is what I want to talk about. I always come back to this album. As he says, it really should be played as loud as possible.... It is an album that is meant to be listened to from start to finish, with headphones. Full attention on this, please. I have done this many times, just listening, and man, what an experience.
Now, I am a pretty emotional person, and music has a great effect on me, but listening to this record, time and time again, I can not stress enough. It is among some of the most incredible and beautiful music I have ever heard. The first track just takes you in. Over 10 minutes in length, with no lyrics, just haunting, slow, beautiful guitar that somehow sends shockwaves through the heart.
Frusciante himself has some pretty interesting views on music, and indeed his own work.
"When the intellectual part of guitar playing overrides the spiritual, you don't get to extreme heights."
—John Frusciante (Rolling Stone, February 2007
Just before any solo album were brought out, Frusciante decided he would become a drug addict. Out of choice. Just listen to his first few records, with such tracks as 'Your Pussy's Glued To A Building On Fire'. This music just sounds like it's coming from another dimension. He has also suffered from some kind of mental health issues and has described voices in his head telling him what to do. Scary stuff. Maybe, it's thinking about him in this condition, trying to imagine what it must be like, but listening to his first record made me cry like a baby. In some strange way, it was the greatest emotional experince I'd ever had. "I wrote [the record] because I was in a really big place in my head—it was a huge, spiritual place telling me what to do. As long as I'm obeying those forces, it's always going to be meaningful".
But, The Empyrean is a different thing all together. Written and recorded 3 years after RHCP's Stadium Arcadium, this is a clean, healthy John.
There is a scene in the film Amercan Beauty, in which a young man show's his girlfriend 'the most beautiful thing he's ever filmed'. For some time, they sit on the bed together watching his footage of a plastic bag floating around in the air against the backdrop of a red brick wall.
He's describing how it makes him feel and he says "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart, it's just going to..... cave in...."
THAT'S how John's music makes me feel, and especially this album.
I can't recommend it highly enough. If you aren't familiar with his work, you should be.