Slowly sinking into a couch on Carroll St., a few minutes after John Frusciantes 10th and very recent album “the Empyrean” had finished, I realized I loved it. I missed it. I longed for its perfectly flawed vocals. I recalled its messy and emotional phrasing. I missed it like a woman. I’ve fallen hard in life, but for what will some will surely call a pretentious and self indulgent spiritual mess? From the sweep echo’d drums and passionate guitar of the opener, “Before the begining,” to the multi phrased epics of “Unreachable” and “Center,” I just want to blast this album out my window so somebody else can revel in my giddy excitement.
For those of us silly teenagers who follow musicians around, “the Empyrean” holds a roster of John Frusciante (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) on Lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Flea (also of the Chili Peppers) on that ballsy bass, Johny Marr (who has played with such greats as the smiths, the talking heads, and currently modest mouse) on guitar and Josh Klinghoffer (who has played with Beck, Gnarls Barkley and other greats) on drums percussion and trippy delayed sounds. Quite the tour-de-force, if I may say myself, these guys can ***ing play. These guys can play and John Frusciante can write and produce some damn good songs.
Let’s take “Unreachable,” the albums third track. With some beautifully realized vocal layers, bass that bounces around inside your ribcage and some truly ingenious transitions between movements, the song is an obvious standout. Shouts of “hey! shoot me!” will surely make your ears perk up and realize that the baby boomers are wrong, and music didn’t die with “The Dead.” That one song is great, but there shocking moments of brilliance all over the place.
The fifth track, "Dark/Light" is somewhat obviously split into two parts, and although the begining is haunting and breathtaking, the second half just destroys. A playful electric techno beat takes the background to a thundering bassline an ethereal chorus and some of the most emotional guitar playing I've ever heard in studio. Usually when one hears a guitar solo on a studio album, it is plainly obvious that it was recorded by a guitar player on a stool with headphones, tapping his foot to a click track and wondering if he got that bend in the third measure perfect a few takes ago. Such is not the case with Frusciantes playing here. I'm sure they had to clear the studio to give him room to run, leap and yell at the top of his lungs to play these solos, because his guitar screams with the energy of a live show.
The bridge of “Central” also comes to mind, a song about living life with fire and intensity, the clever metaphor of playing yourself in a play is realized in a sea of violins with the words;
“I can’t believe I have to say
You gotta feel your lines
You gotta feel your lines”
It is just smooth.
The truth is, no matter what I say, the music will speak for itself. The album has its flaws, it is not perfect, I know this, but I embrace that! I accept and love the fact this music is human, that a man filled with all that life brings and aware of what it has taken made some music. This is how music sounds when it plays inside your head and we have a rare listen inside the head of another.
And what a treat that is.