Mainstream listeners, stop reading now. Don't bother.
Guitar legend John Frusciante's first solo album, Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt, takes you on a bizarre journey to the faraway land that is the mind of a junkie. With screaming vocals and a wailing guitar, this album goes to a major extreme... horrific, unimaginable beauty. Really, you have to hear it to believe it, and you have to get used to it before you can like it. Love it or hate it. No in-between whatsoever.
Most people who listen to today's popular music will find this album disgusting... the whole feel of it, while incredibly alive, is so drug-induced and harsh that the average person will cringe with fear. But if you listen to music for the music, for the sound, for the reasons behind it and the honesty that projects it, you can love this album.
Frusciante doesn't hold anything back. Of course, he never does, but that's hardly the point. This album conveys every emotion with flying colors. And put into consideration, that at this point in his lifetime, John's emotions had gone haywire.
The vocals, whether he belts, screams or whispers the words, have such passion, such pain behind them... While sometimes nonsensical, fantastic or true to life, it is impossible to turn away, even though about half the time you can't decipher what he's saying... It captures the imagination, takes you to another dimension in a way you never saw coming. I don't even know how to explain them all.
Niandra was created after John left the Red Hot Chili Peppers during their Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour, and entered deeper the turmoil of heroin. This album is actually two parts released on one disc (producer's doing). The first twelve tracks are Niandra LaDes, and the remaining thirteen (Usually Just a T-Shirt) are a jumble of radical untitled tracks. The songs were recorded at John's house, on a 1971 tape recorder. The only other contributor on the album besides John was his close friend and late actor, River Phoenix, who helped with vocals and guitar on two songs. Both of these tracks were cut from the CD version (released in 1995) and were made available on the cassette version and on John's later album, Smiles From the Streets You Hold.
Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt is to be handled in small doses and with an open mind. I give this album 4.5 out of 5.
John recovered from his drug problem and in 1999 rejoined the Peppers as their guitarist, and they released Californication. He has since recorded several more solo albums, and is still a genius.