Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner Brothers Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


It can be debated that musical audiences have become less forgiving of a band in the '90s. We've seen sure-bet, multi-platinum artists like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and U2 release albums that received a cold shoulder from the public. The result? Their next album barely cracks a million in the sales mark. It can be an intimidating time for a band preparing for a comeback.

Enter the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After reaching superstardom status with their 1992 release Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band released One Hot Minute in 1996. Though that album featured some of the band's finest musicianship, it netted only a quarter of the sales of Blood Sugar. Worries that the band was headed for washout status was confirmed when VH-1 featured them on their "Behind The Music" series.

Still, don't expect the band to be playing at State Fairs just yet. It's summertime and the charts are crawling with party-heavy releases by Sugar Ray, Ricky Martin and Eminem. And when it comes to get down, party, ass shaking grooves, the Chili Peppers can still kick out some potent jams to lure new fans into their funky domain.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That all said, the Chili Peppers new album, Californication, breaks out with the furious, groove heavy "Around The World." Guitarist John Frusciante's return to the band is immediately apparant. Frusciante left the band just as Blood Sugar Sex Magik was taking off on the charts. He was eventually replaced by Jane's Addiction axe-wiz Dave Navarro. Though Navarro provided a mystic, third-world style to the Peppers arsenal, it too often collided with Flea's distinct bass style of play. Navarro did leave his mark on Californication, however. On the song "Savior," the rhythm of the drums and guitar seem oddly akin to Jane's Addiction opus "Three Days."

Scores of other funky, dirty ditties decorate Californication. "I Like Dirt," "Purple Stain" and "Get On Top" are all high energy ditties that we've come to expect from the Chili Peppers. Thr strongest of the three, "Get On Top," could even make funk master George Clinton bob his head.

While these songs do give Californication a care free, party vibe, the band has also endured its share of pain. Recurring drug problems in the band, rumors of break-ups and the looming fear that that band has overstayed its welcome give yield to a good share of somber ballads. While none of these ballads attempt to duplicate their 1992 hit, "Under The Bridge" (thank God), they show the band is capable of writing something with more depth than "Suck My Kiss."

Musically, there's not much to gripe about on Californication. Anthony Kiedis' vocals have never sounded more mature or sustained. And Flea shows why he is still one of the best bassists in rock. Unfortunately, Californication never feels unified. For every intense, funk-rock throb like "Right On Time," you expect a sleepy, hushed ballad to follow. Only on "Otherside" do the two styles intersect. It is probably without coincidence that it is the best song on the CD.

Producer Rick Rubin has given everyone from Slayer to Tom Petty some of their best moments on tape. But he has yet to capture the energy the Peppers displayed on earlier works such as Mother's Milk.

With Californication, we get a sense that the band is renewed and energized. But far too many times, Californication seems like it could have used one or two definitive break out hits to make it a classic. Instead of being the CD to jump start your Friday or Saturday night this summer, Californication all too often feels like background music: a green bell pepper when you're expecting to bite into an atomic red hot one.

Rating: C+

User Rating: C+


© 1999 Sean McCarthy 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 Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.