Review Summary: Falsetto a la Frusciante
With the release of “To Record Only Water for Ten Days,” it became apparent that John Frusciante had a coherent and consistent effort in him along, contrary to what his first two solo records indicated. The 2001 album was a growth for Frusciante in nearly every aspect; the most notable being his songwriting. When “Shadows Collide With People” was released in 2004, it was evident John had developed something spectacular, whether it was his uncanny songwriting, impeccable innovation, or full-fledged passion. With a growth in practically all of those factors, “Shadows Collide With People” was, and still is Frusciante’s magnum opus.
“Inside of Emptiness” is Frusciante’s second record in a series of five 2004 releases. Limiting the bull****, “Inside of Emptiness” is one of John’s most simplistic albums, purely focusing on songwriting and guitar work. Experimentation had yielded mixed results in the previous albums, with varying song structures in his freshman and sophomore releases (maybe not even on purpose), unique introductions and instrumentals in “Shadows Collide With People,” and synth and other effects in “To Record Only Water for Ten Days.” Although much of the experimentation boded well for Frusciante, “Inside of Emptiness’” works the way that it does because of the basic approach. This characteristic is vital in exposing both the versatility of John’s voice, and the tremendous talent he has as a guitar player. In fact, Frusciante had developed quite a singing voice at this point and time, contrary to what many are led to believe. “Inside of Emptiness” displays John at all levels of the vocal ladder, whether it’s his potent growl, his delicate whisper, or his infectious falsetto. The latter appears to be most prevalent on the record, complementing the power pop of both I’m Around
and Interior Two
perfectly. Brilliantly sandwiched between these two contagious tracks however, is the album’s most vocally brutal song, in which John’s powerful rumble makes an appearance. Equally as brilliant is the multiple layering of his vocals, creating dazzling and heart-warming harmonies.
As extravagant as “Shadows Collide With People” was in nearly every facet, “Inside of Emptiness” reigns superior when it comes to guitar work. His soloing on the record is nothing short of superb, Look On
only being further evidence of this. The extensive Look On
solo could very well be the greatest axe work of Frusciante’s illustrious career, and is both emotive and technical. Like John’s voice, his guitar playing is flexible and varied; sometimes shining in the form of a finger-picked arpeggio and at times subtly moving.
Even with John’s guitar playing and vocals at upper-echelon status, his songwriting is what trumps all of the other characteristics. Even with the slightly humorous opening line in A Firm Kick
, (“A firm kick in the pants…”) it is apparent that John is still deeply affected by his previous drug addiction. A Firm Kick
is a Frusciante’s apologetic lament to a lost relationship, “I never meant what I said to you.” Nothing on the record seems to compare to the closer in a lyrical sense, which he claims, “I’m useless,” only to precede with “But I tried.” Scratches
proves to be one of John’s greatest accomplishments, intensifying as his lyrics become a bit more self-inflicting and brutally honest.
John Frusciante’s fifth solo album is a welcome addition to an already sparkling discography, and has remained as one of his better records. Fusing together tremendous guitar work, tormented lyricism, and indispensible vocals, “Inside of Emptiness” is a firm kick in the pants to its doubters. Frusciante would continue to churn out albums in 2004 as if they were going out of style however, his success with each of these releases would prove that John is one of the hardest working and talented artists of our generation.
A Firm Kick