John Frusciante

The Will to Death

Guitarist John Frusciante's second solo album since reuniting with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Will to Death, just might be one of the best rock 'n' roll discs this year. Recorded in less than a week on gloriously unrefined 16-track tape with Frusciante and pal Josh Klinghoffer playing everything, Will has a wonderfully ragged feel throughout, which comes across as passionate and cathartic rather than sloppy or indifferent -- the guitars clang as if you're in the garage with them, and the drums either crash like ocean waves or thump like cardboard boxes. J.F. sings in a reedy, plaintively expressive voice, perfect for the harrowing melancholia of "The Mirror" (Madman Across the Water-era Elton John as produced by Brian Eno), as well as for the '60s garage rock-style dirge "An Exercise." Echoes of the Velvet Underground, the more pugnacious side of mid-'60s rock (Doors, Animals, Sonics), and '70s singer/songwriters (J.F. name-checks Cat Stevens' Mona Bone Jakon) are present, but that's all they are: echoes, integrated fully into Frusciante's angst-ridden but insidiously enchanting tapestry.

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