PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone
Ever since 1994’s Niandra Lades And Usually Just A T-Shirt Frusciante has been releasing weird (and often oddly-titled) albums. He pushed the concept of the indulgent solo album from band veteran subverting whims in 2004-5 releasing some half-dozen albums/EPs. He was going to record an album a month for a year. And then, most likely, someone from his record company gave him a slap. But the strike-rate from what did make it out into the world was surprisingly good, considering. But it became hard to care. Albums were lost – even if they contained moments of inspiration. This was before Ryan Adams really got on a roll you see. We just weren’t used to this sort of behaviour.
PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is the latest Frusciante album and it’s suitably absurdly titled. It’s also bursting with ideas – almost off-putting in its sound-of-madness starting point. If you picture Aphex Twin composing with a guitar you have some idea of the skittish doggerel and dogged skittishness that infects the tone of this album. But there are songs too. Ratiug for example. Pretty neat. Pretty good.
And anyway, who needs songs in this post-rock/post-band environment where Frusciante isn’t so much working as simply hovering. Intro/Sabam and Hear Say are the opening tracks. These will either sell you on the album’s wild ride. Or scare you off.
For me it’s the most interesting thing he’s done outside of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And considering that band has not been remotely interesting in 20 years it shows that Frusciante was wise to, once again, walk away. It also shows a nice contrast to his very clever Hendrix extrapolations that have been framed up in both the best and worst examples from the Chili Peppers’ discography.
It could almost be a coin-toss album too – you could imagine someone waking up to love this album after hating it the night before, or vice-versa.
And I like that aspect too. I like that Frusciante is interested in making music that he finds interesting. But it’s actually very tightly controlled too. At the almost-perfect album length of 37 minutes he provides enough distractions and then manages to have a few things to say. You’ll be in and out with very little damage incurred.
I couldn’t possibly tell you if this is worth the punt. Well, I can, in that I can tell you that I have found it richly rewarding, never less than interesting, sonically scatterbrained and all the better for it – and I never expected to care about any album featuring an ex-Chili Pepper in 2012.