The name John Frusciante, to most music fans means one thing: The Red Hot Chili Peppers. As their enigmatic guitarist and songwriter, Frusciante strummed and licked the band through their most commercially successful years. One might expect his solo material to be a continuation of the funk he used to play, but listening to his most recent release, Outsides EP, it appears that Frusciante may have been the driving force behind the Peppers’ style into a more diverse musical tapestry. Outsides consists of only three tracks, totaling less than 20 minutes, but the opening song, “Same” is an incredible and musically satisfying 10 minute guitar solo with multiple genres fusing into an impressive whole that evokes imagery by its very sound. Frusciante effortlessly shifts from jazz to blues to rock, playing fast and slowing down as the music takes him, not out of a need to show off. “Same” is proof that Frusciante could have a career as a film composer.
Unfortunately, “Breathiac” and “Shelf”, while certainly not bad tracks, fail to truly capture the momentum and impressive layers of “Same”. While “Same” belies its own name and eschews sameness for musical diversity, the much shorter tracks are equally experimental and avant-garde, but fail to make quite the mark that the first song does. A rearrangement of the tracks could fix this and would allow “Same” to become the clincher the EP could use. That said, there is no dearth of avant-garde experimental rock out there, including in 2013, considering every band from Lesbian to Thurston Moore and Loren Connors to SQÜRL to Cloud Boat. The best so far this year, though, is Frusciante’s.