Sound — 8
To Record Only Water for Ten Days, released in 2001, is John Frusciante's third solo album and his first since he successfully completed drug rehabilitation. It was fully recorded and produced by Frusciante and sees him experimenting with electronica, synths and drum machines, clearly inspired by bands like Depeche Mode and New Order. The sound is distinctly low-fi and helps the personal element of the album. Much like Smile From the Streets You Hold was a harrowing reflection of his addiction, this record is a mirror on his re-discovered interest in life, optimism and spirituality. It is perhaps unfortunate that Going Inside, the opening track, is also one of the strongest on the record since it sets a very high bar that is not always reached again, although there are some true flashes of genius, not least the amazing First Season and the instrumental Ramparts and Murderers. Murderers in particular is a great demonstration of Frusciante's signature stripped down guitar work that fuelled his work on Californication and indeed his career since he re-joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The album is also an indication of the much more reserved role Frusciante would leave for guitar, focusing instead on songs as a complete piece, harmonizing all instruments to achieve something that works above the level of individual riffs.
As mentioned, there are some tracks that do not sound as aesthetically pleasing as others, for example the high falsetto vocals on In Rime. This might be because the quality of the recording is not up to studio standards, or perhaps Frusciante does not have the control over his voice that he demonstrates in later work, or maybe he simply chose to push out the boundaries of his repertoire at the expense of aesthetics. Whichever it may be, this does not mean that the album is hindered too much overall, only that there are a few dubious choices.
Lyrics — 9
Frusciante's lyrics really shine on this record. Going Inside opens with the line You don't throw your life away, a clear reflection on his past drug habit's and indicating the focus on an optimistic and happy future. The themes of reflections on time, past and present, meditation, spirituality and optimism are continued throughout the album. There is a lot that subtly resonates with Frusciante's life and attitude: Someone is waiting to fly with me, someone is saying goodbyebut I've reconsidered it and I'm convinced everywhere I look has a face, everyone who has lived has a place, right here's every world, every time draws a line to right now (Someone's), and even if one is not overly familiar with his history there is a lot of depth to be found in many songs. The singing style varies, most notably rising to falsetto, and while this generally works well with the music there are instances where it is too overbearing and distracting.
Overall Impression — 9
While "To Record Only Water for Ten Days" may not be for everyone, and some songs not even for die-hard Frusciante fans, there are enough truly great tracks to make this worth buying (Going Inside, First Season, Ramparts, Murderers, Away & Anywhere, Someone's, Wind Up Space, Representing). The record as a whole is a landmark in Frusciante's career. It represents a shift in guitar style, particularly towards minimalism and greater experimentation. The move from funk, while sadly waving goodbye to the era of Blood Sugar Sex Magik is at the same time a natural evolution of Frusciante's song-writing as a more mature, meditative exercise. The lo-fi quality gives this a great personal touch that is perfect for the biographical nature of the album. While I may not give this the same attention as, for example "Curtains" or "The Empyrean", it is a beautiful record to pull out every now and then and I would have to replace it if it was lost or stolen.