At least two distinct John Frusciantes exist, musically speaking. There is the brilliantly talented guitarist whose presence in the Red Hot Chili Peppers (after the death of original guitarist Hillel Slovak) brought the band some of its most potent successes (Mother's Milk, BloodSugarSexMagik, and Californication). And then there's the brilliantly erratic lo-fi archivist whose work can be anthemically gratifying or confoundingly obtuse, often within the same song. Coming on the heels of the wildly successful Californication and marking Frusciante's triumphant return to the Peppers after addiction and rehab, To Record Only Water for Ten Days is an amazing testament. Unlike the audio sketchbooks of 1995's Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt and 1997's Smile from the Streets You Hold, Frusciante's work on his current record is more like underdeveloped demos of almost-finished songs. Whereas Niandra Lades sported long stretches of strange, nonmusical punctuation that made Frippertronics seem positively poppy by comparison, To Record Only Water offers 15 startlingly accessible mid-fi tracks, any of which could have been belted out with lispy gusto and bravura by Anthony Kiedis. What accounts for the difference? Perhaps Frusciante's sobriety has brought him closer to hearing things that the rest of humanity actually hears. Or perhaps his earlier stuff was just a sound check. Whatever the explanation, Frusciante has finally given his fans an unadulterated and satisfying taste of what he brings to his day job.
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