One Hot Minute
Warner Brothers Records, 1995
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/10/1998
Funk-rock's own clown princes The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always seemed like they had a revolving door on their practice room; each album, it seemed like someone new was in the band, and another person was having the tag "former member" put on their resume.
After the Chili Peppers's 1991 release BloodSugarSexMagik, the band went through three guitarists (John Frusciante - the guitarist of note on BloodSugarSexMagik - , Arik Marshall and Jesse Tobias) before settling on former Jane's Addiction six-string madman Dave Navarro. The result of his one album with the band, 1995's One Hot Minute, ranks right up there with Mother's Milk as the best work the Red Hot Chili Peppers have ever done. Pity they didn't try to capitalize on Navarro's skill and crank out many more studio releases.
Unlike BloodSugarSexMagik, Rick Rubin's production work on this album seems much more natural, as does the playing of the band, who settle in on an obscenity-laced groove that stretches into territories previously unseen for the band. While Anthony Kiedis is undoubtedly the best front man for the group, One Hot Minute leaves no doubt that this band belongs to bassist Flea - damned if that isn't him taking over on off-key vocals on "Deep Kick" and "Pea", the latter being a sparse arrangement of bass and vocals.
The first single from the album, "Warped," seemed to shock the fans of the band; this was a combination of funk/punk and psychedelia, another new combination for the Chilis. Frankly, I don't think people were ready for this, but Navarro's influence turns this into a track you won't soon forget. The stacatto rhythm guitar line backed with a strong drum performance from Chad Smith, turns this different track into a tour de force.
If "Warped" was a shock to the fans, the hit single "My Friends" would be a kick to the groin. Granted, the Chilis had experimented with ballads before (turning one such number, "Under The Bridge," into a big hit), but this one was a ballad the whole way. Kiedis delivers one of the best vocal performances of his career, and the band wisely leaves the instrumental hystrionics on the sidelines, concentrating on creating an incredible musical journey. Again, Navarro's guitar skills help spell the success of this one, especially his acoustic work.
Of the remaining tracks, the next single "Aeroplane" was a return to the form long-time fans knew and loved (and is still a very good track), while the title track, "One Big Mob" and "Falling Into Grace" all shine incredibly bright on this album. For the first time in a long time, everything seemed to be falling right into place for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Of course, there are one or two missteps along the way. "Coffee Shop" is not well-thought out in the lyrical department (though it's nowhere as silly as "Magic Johnson" off Mother's Milk), while the final songs on the disc, "Shallow Be Thy Name" and "Transcending," both seem to just run out of gas before they have a chance to develop into powerful songs. Still, these few blanks out of 13 songs isn't bad at all.
One Hot Minute not only is an incredibly strong Chili Peppers album, but it also smacks of what could have been had Navarro not decided to leave the group earlier this year. (A motorcycle accident involving Kiedis and his admission of a slip in his recovery from heroin abuse also helped keep the band on the sidelines for a while.) Honestly, had Navarro been given a chance to work more magic in the studio, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers would have been unstoppable; the influence he had on the band was spontaneous genius.
The funny thing is, the first time I listened to One Hot Minute when it came out, I didn't like it. This is an album that has to grow on you a bit, but it is one that should not be passed up for very long.