After battling his way back from the very brink of heroin addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has a lot to get off his chest, so to speak. His comeback/comedown album, To Record Only Water for Ten Days
was one of the most tedious albums ever recorded -- Frusciante's shrill voice clawed its way through a wasteland of clatta-clatta drum machines and wiry, atonal guitars.
Anybody expecting the second coming of RHCP is in for a rude awakening. Even though it heartily trumps its predecessor in terms of composition and poise, Shadows Collide With People exists in deference to the Chili Peppers' shiny, domineering punk-funk -- it's coarse, tetchy and just the slightest bit pretty.
Mercifully, Frusciante has toned down the screechy howl that made his earlier work almost unbearable, and while his songs aren't quite diamond-sharp, they have evolved into soft-focus pop tunes that display a keen melodic intuition and gift for beautiful torment. Chad Smith's dexterous drum-pummeling gives the album its pulsing heart, something sorely lacking in previous outings, while stellar work by A-list friends like the Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez-Lopez ("Changes"), NIN's Charlie Clouser ("Regret") and Flea ("The Slaughter") is enough to deflect attention from the record's weaker moments -- and Frusciante's occasionally frustrating lack of quality control.