Review Summary: A really good album, a must buy for any RHCP fans. A popular, yet good album that should be recongnized as one of RHCP's best.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are a different type of band; they basically play a fused version of funk and punk rock. So many words can express what they are like, but none fit better to me than borderline brilliant. They’ve had their fair share of tragedies and controversies, they’ve been through a slew of replacement members, and have faced tons of critics and doubters, and in the face of all that have became extremely successful. All in all they are easily one of my favorite bands. They’ve released multiple big hit albums such as “Californication”, “Blood sugar sex magik”, and most recently “Stadium Arcadium”. But probably my favorite album by them has to be their eighth album “By the Way”. Say what you want, a lot of the tracks on it were singles and such, and did get popular. Popular or not “By the Way” continues to delight me time and time again. There is not enough to be said about the brilliant rhymes and riffs that are packed throughout the album. The extremely talented bass guitar playing of Flea (or Michael Balzary) has been great throughout the history of the RHCP, and “By the Way” is no exception. His funky basslines barely ever disappoint in this album and constantly acts as a backbone to Red Hot Chili Peppers sound. That is not to take anything away from the great guitar playing of John Frusciante, who also shows glimmers of brilliance during the entire album, with great riffs and every now and then a solo or two.
“By the Way” didn’t come at a great time in RHCP’s musical career, coming right after two controversies. One was not playing anything from “One Hot Minute” on their tour after “Californication” was released which got fans, and ex- Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro upset. Another controversy was the one that re-awakened the personal feud between RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis and Mr. Bungle and Faith no More singer Mike Patton. RHCP refused to play some European concerts with Mr. Bungle, so Patton decided to play a fake “tribute” show for RHCP. Patton mocked their on stage moves, pretended to shoot up heroin, and even imitated Kiedis’ comments about him. Even worse, RHCP played at Woodstock ’99 where burning rubble and even a full-scale riot occurred. Distractions and all RHCP released “By the Way” in 2002, which in the face of all negative things somewhat shortly before. This album shows some sparks of different styles, moods, and sounds throughout, and is definitely one I advice you to pick up.
Track By Track Description
By the Way- Picture this; you’re walking with your girlfriend on a cool summer night on the beach, with an amazing sunset over head. That would basically signify the beginning of the song “By the Way”; it’s got a very soft guitar riff that blends well with the mood. Then as the song progresses picture some creep pocket picking your wallet and you begin to chase him down the boardwalk. This is what happens in the song, the speed picks up, Flea throws down an as always funky, fast paced bassline, which sounds very edgy and different compared to the beginning of the song. Kiedis even begins singing faster and almost rapping during this part of the song. These two styles play cat and mouse throughout the song, and make it a very nice enjoyable track. You might want to listen to this one more than once.
Universally Speaking- This song, like the beginning of “By the Way”, is basically a softer RHCP song. It does pick up now and then, with a few little guitar solos laced in the song. Kiedis sings for the most part softly, similar to some parts of “By the Way”, not really going into a fast paced rap, and for the most part dynamically staying the same, though during high points he does sing in a high pitched voice. Flea continues to add more good basslines, and doesn’t disappoint in “Universally Speaking”.
This is the Place- This is where clever lyrics and rhymes come into play. Kiedis’ songwriting is something that fascinates me at times during listening to RHCP, and the lyrics to “This is the Place” are a good example of that. They are the lyrics you put in your profile for AIM just so you can look at them everyday. For two examples
This is the place where all
The devils plead
Their case to take from you
What they need
Can I isolate your gene
Can I kiss your dopamine
In a way I wonder
If she's living in a magazine
Can I smell your gasoline
Can I pet your wolverine
On the day my best friend died
I could not get my copper clean
are two verses that I find are very clever to say the least. Not only do Kiedis’ rhymes impress me in this song, his vocals don’t disappoint in this song either. Another thing I love in this song is Flea’s bassline, especially during the intro of the song where it is played alone. The bassline is one of my favorites on the whole album, and rivals in my opinion, the intro of “Higher Ground” which is as funky as it is great. Definitely a track that shows the up most defiance to get old, and a very good track also.
Dosed- One of those sad, break up songs to listen to when you get dumped while eating massive amounts of low calorie pretzels waiting for her to call back (trust me I have experience). The song opens up, setting down the foundation of the feel for this song, a nice intro with a mix of depressing guitar and bass play. The feel of the intro, like I said, stays mainly the same throughout the song. Kiedis’ high pitched singing in this song helps create the sad mood as well. Honestly this song took me a few listens before I enjoyed it so take that into consideration before you choose to listen to it or not.
Don’t Forget Me- Picking up from “Dosed” this track mirrors the depressing feel, but is more upbeat, and has more high points than “Dosed”. These two songs reflect the stages I go through after a good break-up, the lazy, calm, soft, dead, depressing feeling that is constant through “Dosed”, and the mainly upbeat, unpredictable, more active feel that is expressed in “Don’t Forget Me”. The bassline ends out the song just as depressing as it began the song, but goes through different phases throughout the song. The song also includes a nice steady guitar riff that picks up greatly during the high points of the song. All in all a very enjoyable song that is worth a good listen.
The Zephyr Song- More rhymes are included in this song than the last two, and are laced with almost as much rhymes as “This is the Place”. This song gives off a different, euphoria sort of feel, which is hard to get out of. The constant “Ohh’s” and “Ahh’s” in the background help create that sort of feel. A little guitar solo during the middle is mainly the biggest change the song goes through. It picks up every now and then, and the beat isn’t as constant compared to “Dosed”. The little guitar riff is pleasant, more so than the bassline in this song, which is odd for RHCP, but it’s not bad. A track that is definitely something different and very good.
Can’t Stop- When I first got into RHCP this was one song that urged me to delve into them more and more. I listened to it much as possible, even going as far as getting out of the water at the beach and scraping the sand off my old CD player to only listen to my limited mix of RHCP. The guitar riff is even better in this song than “The Zephyr Song”, and is one of my favorites on this album, and similar to the bassline in “This is the Place” this riff is in one of my favorites by RHCP. Too add more flair to the song, there is a guitar solo played during the middle which is pretty good to say the least. Rhymes and good songwriting also range from good to great in this song as well as others on this album.
I Could Die for You- Very similar in some ways to “Dosed” this is a song with a constant feel. Very different from “Dosed” the guitar and bass switch roles, and the guitar riff dominates during this song. Kiedis sings in a high pitched voice, which gives the song a happier feel, which constantly hangs around during the song. A nice track to listen to, but not anything very special.
Midnight- This song starts off with violin play, which took me awhile to get used to, and for awhile I didn’t listen to it. The intro isn’t one of my favorites but the rest of the song makes up for it. An upbeat guitar riff, and some rhythm singing gives this song a different feel from most of the tracks so far off this album. Kiedis shows off his good voice during this song, though it does get a small bit repetitive.
Throw Away Your Television- Flea does it again, creating another great bassline. This song starts off funky as ever with a bassline that helps create that original RHCP sound. Kiedis has some great rhymes here as well, and Frusciante throws down a solo towards the middle to ending part of the song. This is an extremely enjoyable track, which like others on this album takes very long to get tired of.
Carbon- Frusciante plays one of my favorite intros in this whole album, because right after Flea plays a funky bassline to start off the last time Frusciante strikes back with a great intro riff. He repeats the intro multiple times during the song which fits well in the song. Kiedis sings his middle to low range vocals and it flows well with the various instruments being played in the background (I don’t know what they are but it does sound like a tambourine). It took me awhile to appreciate this track, but it’s alright after awhile.
Tear- A less upbeat song than the last track “Carbon”, “Tear” has some ups, which make it worthwhile. The thing I enjoy most in this song is Kiedis’ vocals; they stand out more in this song to me for some reason. Occasionally Frusciante puts in a solo to make the song more enjoyable. During the middle to end part of the song there is a trumpet solo that makes the song different, and makes it stand out. This song isn’t anything amazing but it’s an okay track that’s worth a few listens.
On Mercury- Easily one of my favorites on this album. There’s a harmonica that plays throughout the song that helps create the mood better. This song is pretty upbeat and never really slows down. Despite the always upbeat sound, there are a few high points that make this track really worth while. There are times when Frusciante and the harmonica are played together, and they help keep the mood of the song fresh in your head during the times that the song does slow up a bit.
Minor Thing- The intro to this song immediately throws you into the mood of the song, like others do on this album. It’s a very upbeat, soft yet fast, kind of sound that doesn’t drop off. The guitar riff is just as frenzied as the beat, never slowing down. Kiedis goes from low, fast singing almost rapping to high pitched singing in an instant, and shows it off well in this song. It can get somewhat repetitive, but doesn’t make the song that bad. Not one of the best tracks on the album, but continues to delight my listening time and time again.
Warm Tape- A very strange song to say the least. An eerie sound starts off as the intro, almost extra terrestrial sounding. Eventually you get used to the weird feel of the song. Flea’s bassline is more dominate over the guitar riff in this song. The song picks up every now and then, but still not shaking off that eerie ET sound. All in all “Worm Tape” is a different type of song, not good, but okay.
Venice Queen- A soft guitar intro starts the song off, which is a pretty good one. For about a minute the song sounds like it’s going to pick up greatly from the soft riff but it continues to go back to a soft sound. This is repeated throughout the beginning half of the song, and almost gets obnoxious at times. The intro guitar riff continues to play in the back round until during the middle of the song there is a little solo. Then the song picks up a bit, yet the guitar riff continues to stay in the background. This is a pretty long song (for RHCP) at 6 minutes or so. It can get repetitive, until you get to the small guitar solos, and finally the one that closes out the song. Not the best way to close out the album, but still interesting a pretty good song.