John Frusciante

Smile from the Streets You Hold

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Those who felt that Niandra Lades demonstrated most of all that John Frusciante seemed to be going over the edge likely thought their suspicions confirmed when Smile From the Streets You Hold quietly appeared on the Birdman label in 1997. However, it's not so much an album as it is a collection of tracks from all over the place, though absolutely nothing about the packaging or liner notes indicates that. At least one cut, the odd semi-goth "A Fall Through the Ground," was recorded in 1988, while others were finished the year of the record's release. Frusciante later confirmed that in 1997 he was still in the grips of a nasty heroin addiction that he has since kicked, and backhandedly dismissed the release as being done pretty much for drug money. Set aside any prurient interest in the work of an artist in the absolute depths, though, and Smile From the Streets has some high points worth investigating, like the lengthy, truly trippy "I May Again Know John." There's nothing quite so stunning as his magnificent remake of Bad Brains' "The Big Takeover," for instance, but his fragmentary, quietly menacing guitar work and often completely thrashed, howling voice -- itself usually further treated and tweaked -- achieves their own catharsis. If listeners can get through the opening primal howl of "Enter a Uh," then that will be enough to indicate whether the rest of Smile From the Streets is for them. Comparisons can be made to similarly on-the-edge musicians like Syd Barrett or Skip Spence, or even Jandek, but Frusciante has his own soulful qualities and approach, disturbingly extreme as they often are. The entire collection, much like Niandra Lades, was recorded for the most part on basic four-track and sounds it, as lo-fi as anything an purist could demand and arguably more unsettling than many of that supposed movement's avatars could create.

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