Sound — 6
John Frusciante is known by most of the musical world as the guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers who wrote some of their most famous material before quitting the band for a semi-monastic life, rarely showing up in the public domain and trying to avoid attention in general. To anyone not familiar with Frusciante's solo work, it is far different from his work with RHCP. Since his latest departure from RHCP, in 2008-09, Frusciante has focused on electronic music, something he has called his life long dream. "Enclosure" is Frusciante's eleventh solo album and it may be his most eclectic yet. Aside from the obvious auditory eccentricities of the album, it is notable that this is Frusciante's first album where he is the sole performer/programmer. He played all of the instruments, did all of the electronic programming, and was the producer.
No matter how interesting and complex Frusciante's mind may be, the fact that he is the only person to play a major part in the making of the album gives the album a narrow direction. While some would contend that having a person write and produce an album in solitude would result in a more focused effort, I have to say the opposite is true here; this is one of the most disorganized albums I've ever heard.
At many points, I ask, "how in the world did he think of this stuff?" And believe me, I don't ask that question like I would of a Tool album. Frusciante's material is weird and very hit or miss. For me, it is hard to see through many of Frusciante's eccentricities and find the light at the end of the tunnel. Vocals, while usually a uniting force, with this album, just muddle the mess most of the time.
Of course, in an album that is comprised of hit or miss songs, there must be some elements that hit. As I would have thought, Frusciante's guitar work is impeccable, affirming the praise of those who heralded his work during his years with RHCP. The riffs are interesting and the chord progressions are easy enough to understand without becoming too repetitive. His guitar solos, when they show themselves, are thoughtful and create vivacious vibes, oftentimes more so than the baseline melody does. If Frusciante could just keep his electronics and outlandish song structures under control, his guitar work could shine.
The electronics Frusciante uses are not all bad; there is just such a deluge of them. I personally feel that if he could use these electronics with a surgical precision, or at least with some consistency, Frusciante could become a successful electronic artist. Shades of this potential can be heard in the songs "Shining Desert" and "Cinch" where the guitars are meshed with relatively consistent electronic instrumentation to conjure up a harmonious auditory experience.
The album's production is one of its high points. Frusciante is adept at using the full stereo spectrum to his advantage. Regardless of my opinion of the musical content, the Frusciante's production values are high. The only peeve I have with it is that the drum sampling hovers between full on electronic and acoustic. For whatever reason, I dislike his choice in this department. Otherwise, the mixing is great.
Lyrics — 5
As mentioned before, John Frusciante himself takes on all of the vocal duties for this album. It would be too simple to say that Frusciante is just not a good singer. Actually, he deserves some credit for not being horrible. But all things considered, Frusciante could have done well to have hired a stand-in singer for the album. Specifically, I feel that his voice does not show too much personality and his melodies sound neither interesting nor catchy.
Lyrically, nothing catches my eye. The lyrics just seem bland; there isn't really much of interest in this department. Frusciante makes it pretty clear that the ear-catching material is meant to be in the music, not the vocals.
Overall Impression — 5
There is such a fine line between genius and insanity. This album revels in graying that line or, rather, jumping across it and back again. Like much of John Frusciante's solo work, this album is a rather eclectic blend of electronic instruments and interspersed guitar work. For me, the light rarely turns on and even when it does, the result is ok, maybe just slightly above average.
But of course, a given with any sort of eclectic album is that there will be widely varying opinions. While this album did not strike a chord with me, it very well might with you. If you are interested in listening to this album, the first two songs you should hear, in my humble opinion, are "Shining Desert" and "Cinch."