Most helpful critical review
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not a bad effort, for his first Prog adventure
on 2 January 2008
Some might say `Automatic Writing' is Ataxia's debut album, others would say `AW' is Frusciante's 6th album and second in the series of the six albums he released over six months. To me, both these points of view are right. `Automatic Writing' sees John once again teaming up with Josh Klinghoffer, who adds drums and vocals. To complete the Ataxia line up Joe Lally from Fugazi plays bass. This album is definitely `Frusciante goes prog rock', as it is like he is going on an exploratory expedition to expand his music both in terms of length and experimentation and he brought his buddies with him. As to why they are called `Ataxia', rather than JF; I don't know if he doesn't want to personally associate with prog rock because it's deemed uncool or it's because it was more of a band than anything he has done before thus he felt it deserved its own entity. In my opinion, it would be more the latter, as to me Frusciante comes across as the kind of person who doesn't really care if he is cool or not; as long as he is happy.
`Automatic Writing' only has five tracks, but due to the length of them, the album still just falls short of the forty-five minute mark. Three of the tracks; `Dust', `Another' and `Montreal', I feel drag the album down, which is unfortunate as they make up 3/5ths of the album. Don't get me wrong there are some great moments on all these tracks, whether it comes through Frusciante's lyrics, for example in `Montreal' where he sings `I sold all my records, What a stupid thing to do' or the great guitar work and use of syths dotted about in all the tracks. However what I feel brings these songs down is the bass. I get the idea behind it, that the bass line is the one constant through each of the songs and drums, vocals and guitars come and go around it. But for me there are too many points where everything else stops and all you get is bass. It's like they were going for a minimalist approach so the listener can see how the song is built up, but they got carried away. In addition, it is all so slow tempo and repetitive, in particular `Montreal', I find it monotonous and it lasts for 12 minutes plus, so it feels like it takes an eternity to finish. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bassist coming in and doing solos or coming to the forefront of songs every now and then. But this I feel is a bit over the top. Personally I think these songs would be better being shorter. As I mentioned previously there are some really great moments in these songs; but it's a challenge trying to keep awake to hear them. It's as if the three of them were jamming and didn't bother editing it.
A track which does not fall in to the pitfalls described previously and is by far and away my favourite track on the album is `The Sides'. This is the second shortest track on the album coming in at six minutes and forty-five seconds. I wish it was the longest as I could listen to it all day. Compared to the other tracks it has such ferocity and passion. There are also great winding guitar solos which come and ago as they please, showing Frusciante doing what he does best. The album is worth it for this track alone which is just as well!
In saying that another good track the album is appropriately titled `Another'. Sorry, can't resist `bad jokes'. This track sees Josh Klinghoffer get full vocal rights for the first time on a Frusciante album. He had done a vocal part on `Shadows Collide with People', but this is the first time he has sung the majority of a song. I feel Josh's vocals bring a certain freshness and a new dimension to Frusciante's music. As it not only differs from Frusciante's style of vocals but also to most artists out there. Josh's vocals have a sense of calm about them, like a gentle breeze. This is in contrast to Frusciante's vocals which are generally got a more rugged and have raw feeling about them. Again the guys limit this song to six minutes twenty-two seconds, which works a lot better than the three tracks I talked about before which were all eight minutes minimum.
Overall I would say this is an okay album, it's not one I listen too often but at the same time I feel it is still, without doubt worth the purchase for `The Sides' and Klinghoffer's vocals on `Another'. Not forgetting there are moments of genius on the other tracks too, but I just feel it's too monotonous a lot of the time. Don't get me wrong I like prog rock music and I like longer songs, but these songs would be better if they were shorter like `The Sides' and `Another'.