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Okay, you are right, there is nothing such as the worst album in history. But if there were, you would have to seriously consider Niandra laDes and usually just a T-shirt. Nothing seems to work here, at least on the first listen. From the apparently non-sensical title of the record to the enigmatic music whithin everything is confusing. Too rough, too grim, too bleak… Is it a joke? No, it can’t be a joke; it is just not funny at all. It is also long, too long, actually. There are 25 songs, but only 12 of them have titles, the rest are labelled Untitled #1, Untitled #2 and so on. It is a commercial suicide. Who would invest in such a weird experiment that isn't even conceived as a concept album? And yet, this peculiar piece of music is more than just an eccentric record. It's a diary of a descent into hell, both figuratively and literally. If you think I'm exaggerating, let me give you some context.

Cover of the album "Niandra laDes and usually just a T-shirt"

John Frusciante was rich and disappointed after his sudden success with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He was not part of the original members of the band but he changed the way they sounded. After only two years together they released one of the most popular rock records of the 90’s: “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”. But Frusciante was much more the reclusive artist. The type with a sensitive nerve, able to create beautiful and delicate melodies but also capable of producing a gritty punk sound.

In the middle of their 1992 tour he decided to leave the band. The musician secluded himself in his home in the Hollywood Hills, and it is here where things started to be really fucked up. His drug use, already serious, got out of hand as he spiraled into cocaine and heroin abuse. He was also severely depressed. He avoided people, his existence no longer made sense to him and he was unhappy all the time. Drugs offer him a temporary scape. In a candid interview, while he was clearly under the influence, he admitted:

Okay, do you want me to say something soulful? I am a junkie and I love shooting up and that means I’am self-destructive (…) It makes you stay in touch with beauty instead of letting the ugliness of the world corrupt your soul.

His house, much as his state of mind at the time, was an absolute mess — filthy and chaotic. However, it served as his sanctuary, the only place where he felt safe. He would lie on the floor for hours, surrounded by empty bottles of milk, half-eaten food, cigarettes, drug paraphernalia… The walls were covered with graffiti and the cats wandered about—certainly not the place were you would raise a family. The music that he recorded in this environment was of the same caliber: dark, morose, dismal, vulnerable, dirty, grungy. At times, it is challenging to listen to—sometimes strident and absurd, at other times disturbing and simply overwhelming. It represents the absolute disintegration of a person consumed by addiction and depression, a desperate cry for help from someone who insists that everything is fine.

John Frusciante in his house of Los Angeles

The sound quality is low, the songs are fragmented, and the singing is sometimes appalling. Everything seems to go wrong at some point. However, there is also beauty to be found—crafted melodies, a glimmer of hope, and an overall authenticity. Examples include tracks like Your Pussy Is Glued to a Building on Fire or My Smile Is a Rifle.

The album was recorded in chronological order, allowing us to witness how things progressively worsened. Interestingly, it's at its lowest point that Frusciante believes he reaches his zenith. In his opinion, Untitled #12 and Untitled #13 are the best songs on the album.

Its weaknesses are, at the same time, its strengths. The absence of extensive production, the complete disregard for the opinion of the press, and the rawness of the sound make this album truly unique. Listening to it, you can feel as if you were in the room with Frusciante, you can almost smell it; it's suffocating. You’ll feel yourself needing to open the windows. Reflecting on the album years later, he would say:

You can hear the decline I was going on inside (…) It is very sad because I hear, when I hear it, like a person falling apart. Sounds like somebody about to kill themselves. Those songs are sad for the same reason that they are good.

The reception of the album was as expected. However, over the years, it has become a cult classic—an inspiration for other musicians and an exemple of emotional authenticity. It doesn't depict the typical anguish of an adolescent struggling to find their place or the lament of an unrequited lover. Instead, it possesses an almost mystical quality, reflecting physical and mental pain. It's a difficult album to recommend, yet one to which I consistently find myself drawn.

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