Review Summary: As much as the band worked hard on this record, their energetic spirit is missing. If you’re looking for a mellow RHCP, By the Way is a much better offering than Stadium Arcadium.
The band said they were very pleased with this double album and that it was their masterpiece. Maybe they did work harder, but I think that’s why it’s not as good as their previous efforts. It’s like they tried so hard to sound good that they killed all their spirit. In the end this sounds like By The Way Parts II & III. I like their soft side - I pretty much enjoyed By The Way - but this is too much.
The big problem here is not that it’s Red Hot Chili Peppers in ballad mode, it’s that the album is too long and too bland. Yeah, there are some spicier tracks here and there but, with 2 hours of music, they are overshadowed by random ballads. The worst thing about this record is that even if you pick the best songs and compile them into one CD, it will still be a subpar imitation of By The Way.
The musicians did a good job on their instruments though. Flea is a joy to listen and Chad never misses a beat, but Anthony and John are lacking in songwriting. I’m beginning to wonder what happened to the great guitar solos and riffs John Frusciante came up in past years, because they are surely missed here. There are plenty of solos, don’t get me wrong, but they are ugly and sloppy. The arrangements aren’t great either, even with multiple guitar tracks layered everywhere. Anthony is getting too repetitive and the blandness of the songs don’t help him either. There are times you even get the impression he’s repeating the chorus from a previous song in the album. That’s just not good.
In my opinion the songs Snow, Slow Cheetah, C’mon Girl, Hey, Hard to Concentrate, So Much I, Storm in a Teacup, We Believe, Turn it Again and Death of a Martian are the highlights, but they are far from being memorable. Storm in a Teacup is the best song here, but if feels out of place because it sounds like Blood Sugar's RHCP, while the rest of the cd clearly doesn't sound anything like that. This a ballad-based CD, with sticky melodies (Sticky melodies are good if you sing them because you like them, and in this case, bad if you just wanna bang your head on a desk to forget them) and stupid choruses (this album features the worst choruses ever for RHCP, most of the songs I highlighted above have good verses but are ruined by their choruses), resulting in almost every song sounding like a filler.
Even the songs that weren't supposed to be ballads - that have the traditional groovy bass line with funky guitars - turn into boring ballads in the chorus, like Hump de Bump, Tell me Baby and 21st Century. Some songs sound like beach-volleyball party music, like Dani California, and others are just acoustic mellow songs like Wet Sand. In other words, pick your boring random ballad here, because that's what you'll find here.
I'm not going to point out the differences between the Jupiter and Mars crap (the name of disks 1 and 2) beside the fact that the second disk has more O.K. songs than the first one. It's not like the album was thought out to sound like it does, the songs were just random-made and compiled in the best order possible not to sound too boring.
So, in contrast with the album, I’ll keep my review short. If you didn’t like By The Way because that album was too soft for Red Hot Chili Peppers, stay away from this record. It’s long, it’s boring, it’s forgetable.