The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
EMI Records, 1987
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/20/2005
The atmosphere surrounding The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, the third album from funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers, could easily be summed up with a quote from Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
In terms of the best, Anthony Kiedis and crew -- the only time the "classic" line-up actually appeared on record together -- finally sounded like they were getting an idea of where they wanted to go musically. Many of the resulting tracks were the most approachable the group had done to that stage in their career.
But the band was being ripped apart by drugs. Guitarist Hillel Slovak would die of an overdose after the release of this album, and drummer Jack Irons would flee the band as a result. Kiedis and bassist Flea were in the throes of their own habits, and it would take Slovak's death before they each finally became clean.
While The Uplift Mofo Party Plan has some of the group's best music to this point, there is still an air of adjustment to the disc - not surprising, since the group kept changing around band members, and regrettably would have to do the same on their next disc Mother's Milk. Still, this is a surprisingly good disc.
There is something to be said for the lead weight-like slam of the chorus on "Me And My Friends," the song that really shows me that the Chili Peppers had grown as a group. (It's been years since I listened to Freaky Styley, and I didn't have the energy to dig it out of the Pierce Memorial Archives.) Here, now, was a band who were not only musically in tune with each other, but sounded like they were having some fun. Tracks like "Skinny Sweaty Man" and "No Chump Love Sucker" back up this belief.
The album is also notable for what could easily be considered their first "hit," per se: "Behind The Sun," a song I remember getting a decent amount of airplay when I first started in college radio. It's rare that a song can be both solid musically and be loose conceptually - okay, that sounds confusing when you read it in print, but just put the song on, and discover what I mean.
Yet there are times the group seems to backslide a bit. The album opens up slowly with "Fight Like A Brave" and "Funky Crime". The problem with "Fight Like A Brave" isn't in the song itself, but the lack of development it has. Maybe if a little more rhythm had been thrown into it, or the group had even attacked this one at break-neck speed, it could have been a more powerful track. On the other hand, "Funky Crime" just never seems to get off the ground. And the less said about their take on Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," the better.
Also worth noting on this disc is "Special Secret Song Inside" -- now re-labeled on the re-issues under its better-known title "Party On Your Pussy." Three words: waste of time. This is one to keep away from the kiddies.
For all of the weaknesses, though, the Chili Peppers came through The Uplift Mofo Party Plan seeming like they knew where they wanted to take their music, and there was more than ample proof of that on this disc. The band, indeed, would hit that goal on Mother's Milk -- but not without more than a dose of tragedy.