Anyone that’s been following John Frusciante’s solo career for the last handful of years knows that things have gotten a little….well….strange. Sure, John’s music always skirted along the edges of standard rock music anyways, but his last several releases have taken his normally palatable but adventurous sound to extreme levels. In spite of my normally ravenous appetite for Frusciante’s music, his recent releases have left me feeling hungry for a more traditional rock sound. Honestly, his last few records have also left me feeling quite stupid, both in my own musical understanding and enjoyment of the process, so when Enclosure was announced, I was excited, yet cautious for another release from the most confounding man in modern music.
The album begins with the brooding “Shining Desert” which offers a glimpse of Frusciante’s songwriting ability sans massive experimentation. Sure, the song still relies heavily on the experimental elements of his previous few albums (drum and bass breakbeats anyone?) yet there is a foundation in the melody and the structure that grounds the song in ways that Frusciante hadn’t been able to do in recent years. Similarly “Stage” features a pulsating synth line that absolutely flattens a tinny jungle drumbeat, all until about halfway through the song when Frusciante brings out his guitar and gives longtime fans what they have absolutely been craving to hear in the form of an extended solo, which doesn’t even do it justice. It’s not just another guitar line. Frusciante fucking wails on his guitar in a manner that hasn’t been heard from him in years (at least with such clarity). It’s a supremely refreshing moment on the record, one that nearly convinces me that the music I came to love can finally coexist with the experimental bent of the past several years.
But this is exactly where I have been let down with the past few releases. There would be a flash of brilliance, be it an amazing guitar line or an earworm of a vocal melody, only to be replaced by masturbatory musical nonsense. However, unlike its predecessors, Enclosure never veers too far to one side. In fact, it is the first time in Frusciante’s recent history where both of his musical personalites come together and congeal into something familiar yet wildly imaginative and….satisfying. Case in point is the sublime “Fanfare” which is the perfect marriage of the Frusciante sound with its unassuming melody and contemplative lyrics that are guaranteed to pull some heartstrings. It’s a not so subtle reminder that Frusciante is not only an incredible musician, but also a really fantastic songwriter and vocalist. Likewise, the jittery, spastic “Sleep” shows off Frusciante’s impressive vocal range in a three-part song that will keep your ears on sharp standby, waiting to hear what happens next.
As a longtime fan of Frusciante’s work, I have heard him do some incredible things. Admittedly, I was spoiled by the damn near perfection of Shadows Collide With People or the garage rock soul of Inside of Emptiness. The exquisite songs on those records made it difficult for me to understand the experimental bent of the last few releases. We all know that artists grow and change, but the last few albums were exceedingly difficult for me to understand, let alone truly appreciate. But finally with Enclosure, John Frusciante has combined the best of both of his musical worlds. It doesn’t rely too heavily on either of his persona’s and in the process, creates a stunning new sound that contains a familiar thread throughout. Enclosure is a fantastic album, one that will push you to listen deeply and without judgement. It is quintessential Frusciante and while it’s tempting to call the album a return to form, more accurately, it’s just the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the varied discography of one of musics most exciting artists.