Review Summary: Let's just say John has done much better.
With solo debut “Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt,” John Frusciante made a statement. His experimental style was to conflict with the commercial success of the band at which he left, taking a much less conventional approach. “Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt” was disorganized, meandering, and wildly inconsistent, and yet was jam packed with emotion under the surface. With his sophomore record “Smile From the Streets You Hold,” John opted for the same path, to an even more extreme degree. Released in 1997, the record represents John at the pinnacle of his heroin addiction; its obscure and merely appalling structure directly reflecting the time in his life. The album could very well be the darkest material that John has created to date, but don’t let this hook you because some of the record will make you bleed from the ears.
It was clear, at the time that John was aware of his situation, for song titles I May Again Know John
, A Fall Thru the Ground
, and I Can't See Until I See Your Eyes
, speaking volumes about his current state.
"I saw death in everything around me. And everything that was beautiful represented everything that was sad, lost and gone. I was very confused. I got it in my head that stardom was something that was bad and evil. If you were a rock star, you were trying to put people on."
“Smile From the Streets You Hold” and “Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt” have a great deal of similarities in that they both feature very raw production and unconventional song structures. While considerably more developed and better in the current day, John’s vocals are out of tune and incredibly uncontrolled throughout the record, not to mention it is difficult to decipher the lyrics. Opener Enter a Uh
hits the trifecta, for despite the exceptional guitar work is a horrific vocal performance worthy of shutting the album off in the opening minutes. Without lyrics it is virtually impossible to comprehend what the track is about, and John’s mindless screaming only makes it worse. I May Again Know John
, despite its exceedingly depressing and personal title is an eight minute, meandering spiral of noise, facilitated by John’s distorted vocals.
Amidst the amount of ear-bleeding material however, is enough enjoyable and outstanding guitar work to salvage the record from becoming an utter diaster. In fact, there is sufficient solid and listenable material in order to leave somewhat of an impression. The instrumentals such as For Air
are the quite enjoyable and some of the only forms of beauty that can be found here. A Fall Thru the Ground
is the record’s most complete track, delivered with the tremendous passion that Frusciante is currently associated with. Its harrowing and magnificent ambience however, only lasts for just over two minutes.
Buried underneath its harsh and at times unlistenable ambience, “Smile From the Streets You Hold” actually contains a great deal of emotion from a clinically depressed and troubled man who was no longer himself. It is difficult however, to connect with this passion when John is nonsensically screaming through what is already terrible production. Frusciante’s heroin addiction had left him in a horrific and inhumane state, for he no longer represented the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist that just plain loved music. “Smile From the Streets You Hold” was lacking both direction and a coherent inspiration, something that its predecessor somewhat addressed. Fortunately for John, he was about to make a miraculous recovery in which revived the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his solo career, and the lasting legacy that he is now leaving.
A Fall Thru the Ground