No matter the decade, membership in a big band offers the same perks: fame, groupies, and the chance to record self-indulgent side projects. Take Radiohead guitarist-keyboardist Jonny Greenwood’s ”Bodysong,” a fans-only purchase that meanders from chilly string-quartet segments to free-jazz wailings to irritating tracks that mimic typewriters run amok. Granted, ”Bodysong” is an indie-film soundtrack, but it still manages to do the unthinkable: make ”Kid A” sound like an ‘N Sync hits package.
Some extracurricular activities can be educational, though. On his fourth outside-group disc, John Frusciante more than lives up to his image as the sweetly spaced-out Red Hot Chili Pepper with a set of squishy pop: light on fluid solos, heavy on daffy, pseudo-cosmic lyrics (”Every day is each day that’s past”). Since the songs feel like Chili Peppers demos, with the guitarist singing like a less preening Anthony Kiedis, ”Shadows” reveals Frusciante’s influence on the band’s recent touchy-feely work. Intermittently engaging if ultimately slight, it reveals the heart behind the shirtless torsos.