Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

They’ve still got it, just not as much of it: Red Hot Chili Peppers

My brother played ‘The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’ for me back in ’87 shortly after he had gone to see The Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. “One of those guys is going to die,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “They are out of control.” Months later, in 1988, Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose. I couldn’t believe my brother had been right (and he was never sadder to be so). Slovak’s death caused drummer Jack Irons to leave the bad as well. The band didn’t blow up, obviously, but replaced the guys and went on to their amazing success.

I actually saw the Peppers at Lollapalooza II (in 1992?). I have a clear memory of them coming out for their encore wearing construction helmets that shot 3-foot gouts of flame from the tops of their heads and playing “Cross Town Traffic.” Great songwriters, energetic performers, consummate showmen, and just general rock heroes. It’s always tough for crazy, charismatic youths to grow older and try to stay relevant in the youth-centric music business.

One way the Peppers have done this is to not release an album every year. They’ve only released 4 albums since ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ in 1991. These guys don’t release every song that comes into their heads, but collect material for a few years before entering the studio. Their songwriting style has changed a lot and I have to confess I like their first album better than ‘Californication,’ for example, their 1999 release.

It ain't Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but then, it's not trying to be.

It ain't Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but then, it's not trying to be.

In 2006 they released a sprawling double album, ‘Stadium Arcadium.’ While I usually only review albums I like, today I will report I wasn’t crazy about this album. There are a lot of ballads on this release, and while “Under the Bridge Downtown” was a great song, it really isn’t their strong suit. Some of the other stuff rocked out a bit more, but I just felt the melodies were often uninspired. I’ve read plenty of reviews from people who love this album, but I am not one of them.

The reason I’m reviewing this album is because I listened to it end to end and though did not really like 26 of the 29 songs, I absolutely loved two of them (and liked another). I want to recommend you check these out and maybe add them to your own collection.

  • Dani California – This is a good example of the post-Californication Peppers sound. A lot of the songs they do in this style lack spark, in my opinion, but this one is great.
  • Strip My Mind – The background vocals make this song, adding interest and soul. This represents a high point in their songwriting journey. If you contrast some of the early songs that were all energy with this more thoughtful and deliberately constructed piece you can see how they have matured as a band.
  • Storm in a Teacup – This is the only song I ripped from disc 2. The lyrics are silly, the guitar is jangling during the verses and crushing during the chorus and the vocal melody is cool. This sounds like vintage Peppers and I still like it when they write in this style.

The band took a hiatus after their 2007 tour, but reports are the band is reuniting in the fall, though it’s unclear whether this will mean a new album, another tour, or both.



August 19, 2009 - Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock

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