Review Summary: Californication announced a band that had matured musically and mentally, but still know how to be fun and keep the listener interested; a true masterpiece.
Anthony Kiedis’s Red Hot Chili Peppers have always been the band that I occasionally listen to when I’m in the mood, and enjoy their singles quite a bit. They’ve got a good unique, beach vibe to their newer music, and it usually makes me feel pretty relaxed. Post-One Hot Minute
stuff definitely isn’t their funkiest music, their heaviest, nor their most radical but there’s a significant allure they all give me. Californication
was one of those albums that catches your eye and you pick up for the heck of it; except I was around 9 or 10 when I bought this CD. I practically worshiped the album, and my neighborhood pool always played the track Scar Tissue
. So naturally, it brings back some good memories for me, but I get a deep and warm feeling inside when I hear many of Californication’s tracks.
Unfortunately, the album got lost in my endless collection of CDs, and I still haven’t found it to this day. But even if I found it, chances are, it wouldn’t even play; I was young, and rough on my CDs. So, the other day after purchasing The Mars Volta’s The Bedlam in Goliath
, once again Californication caught my eye. The album artwork is alluring and strange, you just fight to resist its pull. So, along with Goliath in my basket, I threw Californication. A strange thing happened that way on my car ride home, as instead of listening to Goliath, I listened to Californication. As I remember, the album begins with a kick to the jugular with Around the World
. It begins with a distorted bassline, and symbolizes unleashing all the pure aggressive force they’ve built up by being held capture by Frusciante’s drug addiction for so long, and announced to all the world that they’re back. And ready to be more successful than ever.
But fans notice something strange, quickly. This isn’t the funky Peppers we last saw in 1995, this isn’t the partyboys we had gotten so used to, this is a more alternative rock band with a more melodic approach. No, they haven’t sold out, but they’ve taken a more West Coast sound to their music, it’s almost tropical even though, yes, it’s easily accessible. But it’s still fantastic music. Because where most bands on a reunion release an album that’s average to announce their comeback, the Peppers do it from the start. Around the World is the reiteration of their funkiness, and about as funky as the album gets. Up until the chorus, it’s rather funky and a bit like older stuff, but the chorus was the first we’d seen of the more melodic, tropical style they added to their music. The Peppers wanted to make sure everyone knew they were changing their sound and maturing as artists. The grandiose Scar Tissue demonstrates all you need to know about Californication. If I were to tell you the defining track of the Peppers, or even the 90s, it’d have to be Scar Tissue. It’s quite melancholy, but wholly relaxing held together by Frusciante’s light but effective guitar riff, and Kiedis wailing ever so softly above the guitar; just enough to let the echo of the relaxing tone seep into your ears.
And even though the days of going on stage in underwear and flaming hats is long behind Kiedis, the days of more meaningful lyrics caught up to him. His maturity has been well documented by lyrics of Californication as Kiedis points out the effect stardom has on people, and the influence of Hollywood and celebrities have on our life: “Space may be the final frontier/But it’s made in a Hollywood basement”. He also sings on lost memories, and reflecting on all that’s had influence in his life: “Once you know you can never go back/I’ve got to take it on the Otherside”. Obviously the days of shallow lyrics and catchy tunes like Mellowship Slinky in B Major
and the obscenely sexually charged Suck My Kiss
have been left in the past. But make you mistake, these are catchier, more structured, and better written songs than we’ve ever heard from this band. There’s plenty of tunes here that you’ll be singing for weeks, but this is a more structured line of tunes.
There’s still plenty funk to be heard aloud here though; make no mistake. Flea’s basslines are fast, and funky as documented in tracks like Get on Top
or the ‘throwback’ song of I Like Dirt
. There’s still the indication of old Peppers, they haven’t dropped all the funk as of yet. Frusciante‘s appearance is welcomed back, as the riffs feel more structured, and give the feel of a band ‘gelling’ together again. He even introduces the acoustic guitar in Road Trippin’
into a truly incredible ending to a truly incredible album.
I received the album as a band slowly getting more into their deep, melodic stuff that they produce today versus the early 90s funk rock they recorded in albums like Mother's Milk
and Blood Sugar Sex Magik
. Around the World and I Like Dirt are funky enough for Blood Sugar Sex Magik, while some tracks foreshadow into future adventures. Somehow, it gives the album surprising flow and it all works well, the band seems to be playing together better than ever. The album isn’t without a fair share of issues, though. Most noticeably, the audio is quite subpar. The album clips quite a lot, the introduction to Around the World is quite evident. It sounds lo-fi and underproduced for a lot of the album, and while giving it a ‘raw’ feel, it becomes such an epidemic in some tracks bridges, chorus lines, or distorted basslines that it gets a bit distracting. But don’t let that poor audio quality be too much of a distracting factor, this is a fantastic funk-induced release that announced the Peppers’ return to rock that shows a band maturing in their music, and getting better all the while.