Mother's Milk

Red Hot Chili Peppers

EMI Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


When Mother's Milk was released in 1989, I admit I wasn't ready for them. I was a sophomore in college and more interested in Poison, Winger, Slaughter, and other late-80s groups. I wasn't into funk, punk, or slap bass. I dismissed the band as being borderline interesting. I didn't want to like this band. Upon the release of 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, I gave this band another chance to stand out as a special band. It was one of those things were I liked the three radio singles ("Under The Bridge," "Breaking The Girl," and "Give It Away") from Blood and made a conscious effort to investigate the band's previous release with the hot chick on the cover.

What that means is that by the time I found myself with Mother's Milk, I had their future releases to guide me through their style. And that's the way my local rock stations worked as well. After the success of Blood, I began hearing songs from this release. "Higher Ground" and "Taste the Pain" were getting airplay. It's the same thing that has happened with bands that achieve commercial success with a second or third release. It's like having a current hit single gives the radio stations license to investigate where the band came from. This happened with Metallica. It wasn't until after the success of "Enter Sandman" that my local rock stations started playing "Seek and Destroy," "Creeping Death," "Fade to Black" and "Master of Puppets" in regular rotation. The same thing happened with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In my experience, after the trio of singles from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band's back catalogue was investigated further.

In early 2005, I don't think a lot has changed. I listened and re-listened to this release recently and it just doesn't do it for me. I like it when a band makes a first person connection with the listener. I don't want preaching or way out there lyrics. One element of a band is to make a connection with the listener. For me, Mother's Milk fails in that category. I don't feel a connection to the band.

"Good Time Boys" strikes me as an anthem about how much the band thinks their feces doesn't stink. "Funky young kings we sing of truth and soul / We're the modern day braves with one strong hold / through the world of song our boldness is exposed" and then later "We play it loud for everyone to hear it." These lyrics are laughable. What strikes me the most is that they chose to make "Good Time Boys" their first track, the position that usually gets the most attention from reviewers and casual listeners. It's unfortunate because it sets the release in the wrong direction.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Subway to Venus" doesn't do much more for me than indicate it's time to press Skip. While I appreciate the horn accents, this song is another example of misdirection. "Step right up and listen please / you're gonna get it with the greatest of ease." I am glad this wasn't followed with lyrics like "We fly through the air without a net on the trapeze."

"Magic Johnson" is a song that the Los Angeles Lakers probably could have commissioned the band to write and to then use as a theme in their promo spots. And while I can appreciate the band's devotion to the basketball team, this track just comes across as stupid. The "M-A-G-I-C" chant, lyrics like "Knucklehead suckers better duck / when the buck comes through like a truck." I just can't wrap my mind around this song.

"Nobody Weird Like Me" should never have been released. That's as cut and dry as I can get. Either that or Kiedis should've been sent back to write better lyrics. "Bless my britches / bless my soul / I'm a freak of nature/ walking totem pole / look and see I think you'll agree / Nobody weird like me." Later, he sings "intercourse with a porpoise / is a dream for me / Hell bent on inventing / A new species." Some things that we are hell bent on doing should remain private.

The final two tracks "Sexy Mexican Maid" and "Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky" tidy up the release without much of a kick. "Maid" talks about a sensual adventure with a female and "Johnny" doesn't connect with me, describing "a jagged flash of light struck me in the eye / I turned around and found that I was still alive / Snakes rise high from the purple black sky." Um. . . the last time I checked, if a snake was coming from the sky, it would come down to earth. "Rising high from the sky" may be a great rhyme, but it makes no connection with me.

I do like the band's cover of "Fire," my favorite Jimi Hendrix song ever. Everything I love about the jam band attitude on the original comes through. The tempo is faster on this version and vocalist Anthony Kiedis takes a few lyric liberties, but it comes together as a quick 2:03 jam. Second, I still like the radio singles from this release. Flea's repetitive bass line in "Higher Ground" is mesmerizing. I do wish guitarist John Frusciante would have written a guitar riff that doesn't mimic Flea's bassline so tightly. Drummer Chad Smith makes this song for me with the pounding drumbeat that drives the song. Third, I like the reflective lyrics from Kiedis of "Knock Me Down." I don't know if when Kiedis sings, "If you see me getting high" in the chorus if he's talking about being high on drugs or high on themselves. I think the latter because of the other lyrics in the chorus: "If you see me getting mighty . . . / I'm not bigger than life." I like the instrumental "Pretty Little Ditty" which allows Flea and Frusciante to combine their instruments.

I didn't think I would dislike this release as much as I did. It failed to make a connection with me lyrically. Musically, sure, Flea is a great bassist and Chad Smith can hammer down the backbeat. Frusciante can play riffs. This release is not their best.

Rating: D

User Rating: B



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