EMI Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/25/2005
There are certain records that are a "must-have" for the fans of the band, but "money-gone-down-the-drain" for others: What Hits!? is such a record.
What Hits!? was released after the band's smash hit, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, possibly to capitalize on their fame. But, much to everyone's surprise, Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) had plenty of numbers to come up with a "Greatest Hits" LP like this, when the hoi polloi thought Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the act's only album.
Playing around with this fact, the album-title has been toyed around with, by the group: the question-mark, for those who had no inkling of the fact that RHCP even existed before Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and the exclamation-mark by the group saying "yes, there are many more songs to our credit than meets the eye, though none of them ever made it even close to the charts."
What Hits!? is a record that captures RHCP during their struggling days, and there were many: four LPs, one EP, and seven years, it took them to make the overnight transformation from complete obscurity to total stardom.
Every obscure band has a few pleasant surprises that astonishes, and RHCP has more than a few of them, but especially a couple: "Higher Ground" and "Behind The Sun." These tracks are distinct album (and career) standouts, along with the band's cause to fame and fortune, "Under The Bridge."
Take these three songs out of the record, and the rest of the album is the same. The act sounds weak and immature on most part of the album. Anthony Kiedis' vigorous rapping, which otherwise is full of strength and sprightliness, sounds absolutely weedy, and the weak music makes it even worse. For most of the times, the sound quality itself is all worn out and inferior.
But, putting aside all the bickering of what's wrong with What Hits!?, the numbers aren't all that bad, but only if one musters the patience to sit through eighteen monotonous songs, and do it all over again and again -- and that's a lot of listens -- till one gets the hang of what's actually going on in the album, and appreciate it, if not totally, than at least to some extent.
Actually, What Hits!? reveals another facet of the act, and a completely different one, from the current "RHCP" that we all are familiar with. The group was a whole lot funkier than what it is now, and the muscular guitars and drumming of the "RHCP" of today gave a more fun loving and frivolous effect to the music back then.
For fans of RHCP, What Hits!? plays dual role: in addition to some interesting listening material that it provides, What Hits!? is also an essential album, and a way to get to know their favorite band during their pre-mainstream days. For others, well, there is always the radio and the music channels -- not to mention illegal file sharing -- for "Higher Ground" and "Behind The Sun."