Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Red Hot Chili Peppers

EMI Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


After languishing in the realm of college radio darlings and cult party oddities for several years, Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) shoved their collective fist under the face of the music world with their breakthrough album Mother's Milk, greasing the skids for a full-scale onslaught. That coup d'état on the world of pop culture came in the form of the testosterone-fueled rocket titled Blood Sugar Sex Magik. 17 tracks of power-funk and soulful groove that would knock the world on its ass.

One of the great things about this album to me, is the way it has become a benchmark in their careers where the music overshadowed the image. BSSM is just as nasty and funky as the Peppers' past efforts, but they had obviously concentrated on the strength of the music more than ever before. Likely the lack of narcotics among the band had helped this (for the time being anyway, John Frusciante's drug problems had yet to come to a head), but I think plain old maturity had taken a strong hold as well. Not to be minimized is the contribution of production guru Rick Rubin who helps to reign in and control RHCP's power without watering it down.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The songs center for the most part on the signature cock-swagger that the Peppers are famous for. However, they show a much more thoughtful side than we're used to, specifically on the most unlikely of hits, Kiedis' heartfelt "Under The Bridge." In part a tribute to his SoCal homeland, but mainly a painful reflection on life as a heroin addict. Many critics sneered at Kiedis' prose, but it's hard to deny the emotion that he pours into this song. Nothing rings truer than, well… the truth. This song saturated the airwaves for something like six months after it's initial release. Strange that the one song on this album that's as far afield from RHCPs norm as possible became the definitive track at that time in their career. The Peppers show an unusual propensity towards ballads on this disc. The guilt sodden "Breaking The Girl" and "I Could Have "I Could Have Lied." These songs offer in interesting perspective to the historically party-hard, straight-ahead funk we're used to. In retrospect you can see how this became a norm for future albums, and shows a more mature and diverse side of the Peppers that I personally find refreshing. The introspective ballads would, by the release of "Californication," become part of their trademark sound.

Fear not funk lovers, this is no wimpy collection of songs. Propelled by Flea's frenetic thumb-busting bass and the furious riffing of guitarist John Frusciante, the funk flows freely on sex saturated pile-drivers like "Suck My Kiss" and "Give It Away." This disc immediately became "the" party album of the year, and it was hard to avoid the power of this breakthrough album. A hallmark of musical growth, without sacrificing any of the joyful power the Peppers are known best for. While Mother's Milk is definitely the breakthrough to success RHCP was looking for, and richly deserved, Blood Sugar Sex Magik marks the point where they made all the musical pieces fit.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B-



© 2005 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI Records, and is used for informational purposes only.