Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt is the first solo record by John Frusciante. Between 1990 and 1992 the guitarist made a series of 4-track recordings, which at the time were not intended for commercial release. After leaving the band Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1992, Frusciante was encouraged by friends to release the material that he wrote in his spare time during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions.
Originally released on Rick Rubin's American Recordings label in 1994, Niandra LaDes is a mystifying work of tortured beauty. Frusciante plays various acoustic and electric guitars, experimenting with layers of vocals, piano and reverse tape effects. Channeling the ghosts of Syd Barrett and Skip Spence, his lyrics are at once utterly personal and willfully opaque.
Frusciante's rapidfire, angular playing shows how key he was in the Chili Peppers' evolution away from their funk-rock roots. His cover of "Big Takeover" perfectly deconstructs the Bad Brains original with laid-back tempo, twelve-string guitar and a fierce handle on melody.
The album's second part—thirteen untitled tracks that Frusciante defines as one complete piece, Usually Just A T-Shirt—contains several instrumentals featuring his signature guitar style. Sparse phrasing, delicate counterpoint and ethereal textures recall Neu/Harmonia's Michael Rother or The Durutti Column's Vini Reilly.