Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Defense Of A Great Band

I know this might bother a few of my coauthors, but for all their commercial success, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great band. They have certainly had their set-backs, mostly centered around their longtime compatriot, the horse. Nevertheless they’re likeable, strange, funky, emotional, psychedelic, talented and have been enjoyably morphing and transcending popular styles through their almost 30 year career. It has made them in my opinion the best band of our generation (save for maybe Radiohead if hearing someone whine makes you feel better about your own depression).

So, you think you’re a RHCP fan? But have you heard Yertle the Turtle, and did you know that Michael Balzary rips the trumpet on it? Did you know before you did a little mental math from my last paragraph they’ve been around and putting out decreasingly funky music since 1983? Do you regard that Carmen Elektra loving album as weak except for Aeroplane or that weird song about the outback? Do you love the gay part in the music video for Give It Away or wefewencing doity boids? Maybe you even think Snow is the most annoying ditty ever written about Clapton’s lovechild (not Layla). If so, you remain an enigma to most of the musical community today, and maybe you should sell your disc man and start using mediafire (see below).

Enough of that shit. I’m starting to sound like a Nick Hornby character.

I was driving to Maine this weekend and decided to listen to By The Way. It is definitely their album I’ve listened to least. It emerged during a strange place in their career, moored between their two most commercially successful albums Californication and Stadium Arcadium. It does indeed feel like a transitional step for them picking up poppier chord changes from Cali and dropping a lot of distortion and slap bass on the road to SA. In a way it seems like the most Frusciante influenced album. A quick trip to Wiki verifies this: “Guitarist John Frusciante is credited with writing most of the album’s melodies, bass lines, and guitar progressions, therefore changing the direction of the recording dramatically”. A few listens to his solo albums verifies this. I love his heroin stratocaster rock and his falsetto harmonies that pervade almost every song. This is a welcome carry over from songs like This Velvet Glove or Road Tripping from Cali. Also the lyrics from Kiedis are more experimental sometimes more personal but also resorting to his typical absurdist style as in This Is The Place:
Can I smell your gasoline
Can I pet your wolverine
On the day my best friend died
I could not get my copper clean
That might be the weirdest vagina reference I know of, but who can say. I do actually really like this song, the flanged guitar and a great sounding ride from Smith make the chorus sound really cool. Other highlights for me are By The Way and The Zephyr Song for their singing and watery textures, and Venice Queen for Minus The Bear sounds sans attitude before the great breakdown. Sidenote: I definitely liked Can’t Stop the first hundred times I heard it, and I still might.

Thus, if you fell into the “fan” category before but haven’t given this album due chance, do it. If you’re not a fan, I actually think this might be one of their most accessible and you should still hear it.

No comments:

Post a Comment