Of the numerous words that could be used to describe John Frusciante, the term lazy certainly wouldn’t apply. Since he left his day job (for the second time) as the axeslinger for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2010, Frusciante has been keeping busy on his own accord. Just last year, he released the Letur-Lefr EP and the full-length PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. But instead of resting on his laurels and letting the content of his previous work sink in (cause they were a trip to say the least,) Frusciante has prepped yet another EP, this time titled Outsides.
At first glance, the three tracks contained on Outsides may not exactly invoke the image of a prolific artist at work, but as with much of Frusciante’s past works, the proof is buried deep in each track. The album opener “Same” is a sprawling affair, reaching over ten minutes in length and featuring little more than a sparsely patterned backbeat and Frusciante’s extended guitar solo. However, unlike some of his other more recent solo endeavors, Frusciante’s guitar sits front and center for the majority of the song, leaving the listener breathless at not only his proficiency with his instrument, but with his innate sense of song structure and delivery. And even though “Same” would be hard to classify as a pop or rock track, it does keep moving.
The next two songs on the album “Breathiac” and “Shelf” highlight the experimental road that Frusciante has been traveling now for the last few years. Free form percussion combines with computerized glitches and bleeps that would give any Aphex Twin track a run for its money. Ghostly string sections layered throughout both tracks give the music room to breathe, where otherwise it may have collapsed in on itself due to its non linear nature. What is largely missing (or at least buried deep in the mix) with both of these songs, is Frusciante’s guitar. And while the intention behind this EP was to create “full sounding music without resorting to any familiar musical relationships of harmony to serve as a basis,” it seems somewhat remiss on his part to limit the very thing that he is known for.
By now, the shock of Frusciante’s new found love of experimental music has worn off. Although it would be a welcome sound to hear him tear into his Strat and use traditional song structures once again, Outsides does manage to satisfy the former. It’s unlikely that Outsides will win over any new fans, instead, it serves as a snapshot of Frusciante’s mindset at the time and although a challenging listen, it’s yet another chapter in his tireless and ever-evolving discography.