Red Hot Chili Peppers

Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik ©1991 Warner Bros.
1. The Power Of Equality
2. If You Have To Ask
3. Breaking The Girl
4. Funky Monks
5. Suck My Kiss
6. I Could Have Lied
7. Mellowship Slinky In B Major
8. The Righteous And The Wicked
9. Give It Away
10. Blood Sugar Sex Magik
11. Under The Bridge
12. Naked In The Rain
13. Apache Rose Peacock
14. The Greeting Song
15. My Lovely Man
16. Sir Psycho Sexy
17. They're Red Hot

1991 was a bizarre year for mainstream consciousness in music. Whereas the common music that you'd hear blasting out of dorm rooms, daddy's car in the high school parking lot and so on was Mc Hammer and various forms of R&B or rap, a sudden change took place that completely shifted musical perspectives for the 90s. We all know Nirvana's story and the doors that knocked down. In its wake, bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and others became huge. Bands that had previously played glam metal or the flavor of the day strapped on chain wallets, grew goatees and picked up superfuzz bigmuff pedals. Whether or not this was a good thing is debatable. Personally, I was pleased to hear something with heavy guitars around the dorm but at the same time the mainstream became glutted with awful trash as everyone with the wrong musical priorities jumped on the bandwagon of fame and fortune. By 1994, I imagine a lot of them were trading their grunge for pop punk, but that's another story. Regardless of the saturation of the music ushered in during 1991's "revolution" (note the sarcasm), some of it actually was quite good.

In the case of LA's Red Hot Chili Peppers, they happened to cultivate and climax right at this point. Their first few efforts were particularly uninteresting as they attempted a funky white boy thing. Good for a few songs, but hardly anything vital to one's existence. Around 1988, they picked up a guitarist named John Frusciante and a drummer named Chad Smith, released a fairly solid album called Mother's Milk and caught some attention. The followup recording sessions placed them in some weird mansion in the LA foothills area with Rick Rubin. The resulting seventeen song CD is easily the one exceptional musical statement of the Chili Peppers' career.

Though I couldn't have placed it at the time, the sparse and minimalistic overall sound was quite reminiscient of Minutemen to a degree. Rubin whittled down the bark to the tree within and for a brief moment was able to capture the Chili Peppers at their best. Though Flea is reasonably talented and Smith is a very solid drummer, the flat vocals of Anthony Kiedas are almost a detraction. Almost. They fit here. The album was a statement, and frankly said everything this band would ever say. Today I skip over the way overplayed "Under the Bridge" or "Give It Away" (the two MTV hits that established superstardom for the band) but there is so much other stuff to experience. "I could have lied" is a very evocative song, "Apache Rose Peacock" - regardless of the rather penis oriented lyrical material - is filled with smart arrangements and song movement, and the extremely dopey "Sir Psycho Sexy" is able to redeem its trite lyrics by building to a powerful song climax at the end. Many of the songs throughout are superb.

For whatever reason afterwards, the Chili Peppers fell apart and never were musically interesting again. Frusciante left the band (thought he has since rejoined in the late 90s) and the remaining members recruited other guitarists but the chemistry was gone. However, the band at least recorded one album that is truly deserving of required listening for the 90s and here it is.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication ©1999 Warner Bros.
1. Around The World
2. Parallel Universe
3. Scar Tissue
4. Otherside
5. Get On Top
6. Californication
7. Easily
8. Porcelain
9. Emit Remmus
10. I Like Dirt
11. This Velvet Glove
12. Savior
13. Purple Stain
14. Right On Time
15. Road Trippin'

When on their game, the RHCPs are a clinical study in pure rock genius: an all-enduring funk-punk oddity which refuses to reform, sheening their aptitude for timeless rock songs with a seemingly gleeful rejection of industry standards. And there is simply no other band batting in their league.

Yet, when they're off the mark (said circumstance stole precious statistical space on the mostly nondescript One Hot Minute) they're terrible ("Love Rollercoaster", hello) and I'm embarrased for not only them, but that I was born on the same geographical soil as they.

Cut to 1999: Dave Navarro is gone. Ex-axe dude, the enormously talented John Frusciante - he of the hair-raising singing voice and righteous looking jesusbeard - is fresh outta rehab and ready to restore order back in the scheme of the Universe. So the Law of Probability swings back in the guys' favor, suggesting, perhaps they'll be over the bar, rather than onto it, or face-first below it.

And it is true. For the most part, anyway. Californication reminds me why I loved this band in the early 90s, I had forgotten for a while there. "Scar Tissue" is the first music video I have watched in a good 4 years (video killed the video star) and it is vintage RHCP; a funk rock splicing with bass as lead, bluesy slide guitar, and Keidis' asserting his talent for creative - sometimes skewed - but largely enjoyable vocal melodies. "Parallel Universe", "Porcelain" and "Road Trippin'", represent the widest musical corners to which these guys have traversed, courting pseudo-disco, breathy Portishead-like lullabies and an acoustic ballad that sounds like a cheesy British 60s protest song. Otherwise, it's business as usual; rhythmically tight funk rock, sometimes so-so ("Get On Top") but usually just evidenciary of the great songs I know these guys are capable of. The highlights are many, they're substantial, and they needn't be spelled out.

Thematically, it is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to California and all its diverse weirdness, the word itself religiously saturating the lyric sheet. No, I haven't been there, and I don't want to be there, but this album at least makes it sound interesting. One of my favorite releases thus far, 1999.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 08/1999

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