Red Hot Chili Peppers
Blood Sugar Sex Magik


5.0
classic

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
January 23rd, 2010 | 51 replies | 7,017 views


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Funk rock mastery coming at a steep price.

12 of 12 thought this review was well written

Blood Sugar Sex Magik. For the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it was more than just their fifth and best album. It was an immediate breakthrough, far greater than the minor success the band had already achieved with Mother’s Milk. With singles Give It Away and Under the Bridge, the quartet was suddenly catapulted into fame, and the album became an international hit, eventually selling more than 12 million copies. All the fame and fortune had its drawbacks, however. Coupled with a drug addiction that had haunted and would continue to haunt him for some time, the fame was too much of a toll to take for John Frusciante. During touring, he abruptly quit the band, breaking a formation that, for the first time in Chili Peppers history, had managed to record two consecutive albums. In the end, Frusciante’s withdrawal might have very well helped bolstering the album’s popularity even more.

But Blood Sugar’s classic status does not stand because of a couple of well-placed singles and an infamous departure. Their fifth album was where the band finally got the formula they had been tuning with in their early years perfectly right. The production is a first reason for this. On several occasions, it had been disappointing (notably The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mother’s Milk). For Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Peppers brought in Rick Rubin, who had previously produced the infamous Reign in Blood (Rubin had been their first choice for a producer since some time). Since then, he has gone on to produce every album for the band. Rubin’s production balances everything out nicely, reducing Frusciante’s guitar noise that was too prominent on Mother’s Milk, in order to leave space for a clearer sound.

At this point, each band member has found a balance in their styles as well. Kiedis starts employing clean vocals to a much larger extent, as the album contains several ballads, and gets away with it perfectly well. In fact, his clean singing is surprisingly good for a real first try. Flea, always being the dominant, aggressive bass player, keeps himself calm when he needs to, and the interplay between him, Smith and Frusciante is greater than ever. The guitarist leaves his mark before his departure. He now gets a chance to display his knack for creating beautiful melodies, but an often overlooked feature of the man’s work with the band is his fantastic falsetto, applied in superb fashion in the backing vocals of several tracks.

Therefore, the material is as enduring as it ever got. Though Kiedis, being the lyricist, was pre-occupied with sexual themes as usual (Suck My Kiss, Give It Away, Sir Psycho Sexy), he also took time to write about personal experiences with relationships (Breaking the Girl, I Could Have Lied), drug addiction (Under the Bridge) and the loss of a good friend (My Lovely Man, being a second tribute to Hillel Slovak, after Knock Me Down). Due to this expanded writing, and resulting inclusion of several ballads, Blood Sugar improved on the band’s sound in such a way it waylaid creative barriers and thus created the seminal Red Hot Chili Peppers album.

It even goes so far that the ballads belong to the very top tracks of Blood Sugar. Breaking the Girl and I Could Have Lied both feature impeccable acoustic picking by Frusciante, the former slightly more upbeat and the latter somewhat sadder. Both have Kiedis putting an amount of emotion in his voice he didn’t show he was even near capable of before, with powerful but yet restrained choruses. There is the third ballad, however, that tops it all. Under the Bridge is one of the best, if not the best song the Red Hot Chili Peppers have ever written, and it is not difficult to hear why. Frusciante gently introduces the song with a beautiful, clean and sad melody, still up there with the best he’s written, soon to be accompanied by what is Kiedis’ prime vocal moment on the album, who builds up from gentle to gradually more powerful singing. As the rhythm section softly accompanies them, the song builds up to an epic, operatic climax. The lyrics are equally effective, with topping lines during the climax: ‘Under the bridge downtown; is where I drew some blood/Under the bridge; I could not get enough/Under the bridge; forgot about my love/under the bridge; I gave my life away’. It is, truly, a compelling song about the addiction that has plagued the band for so long.

But of course, the majority of the album runs in classic Chili funk rock, this time pretty much perfected. The crazy opener Power of Equality, the bass-driven Suck My Kiss and Naked in the Rain (which even has a short solo from Flea), the lovely laid-back style on If You Have to Ask and Funky Monks, paired with Frusciante’s enhancing falsetto, and the true funk groove on My Lovely Man are all more moments that indicate the variety and musical excellence of this record, but like any, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is not without its flaws. The title track, to start with, is actually one of the weaker efforts, falling down because of a weak chorus. A similar comment can be made about the hit Give It Away, which is, aside from its fantastic loud and overwhelming intro, actually pretty repetitive, and certainly not Kiedis’ best moment vocally. Sir Psycho Sexy drags at 8 minutes, and closer cover They’re Red Hot, fitting as its title may be is another of those initially hilarious but soon annoying joke tracks. Instead, the track that came before it would have done tremendously better at wrapping things up.

But no song is really a complete wrongdoing to the album. Though it would have benefited if a couple of bits and pieces had been shaved off, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was really a classic for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After all, it perfected the style of the band before they took a more commercial route (which was by no means a bad thing), and with its variety through the use of ballads and equally compelling slower and faster tracks, it shows the best of both worlds. And then, I’m not even counting the influence and impact it had. I wasn’t there to fully comprehend this album at the moment it was released, as that moment was a mere two months after I was born. Growing up to fall in love with the Californication-era, I had a hard time to comprehend the classic status of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Today, I understand what all the fuss was all about.

Blood Sugar Sex Magik’s Red Hot Chili Peppers were:

- Anthony Kiedis ~ Lead Vocals
- Michael Peter ‘Flea’ Balzary ~ Bass Guitar, Trumpet, Backing Vocals
- John Anthony Frusciante ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Chad Gaylord Smith ~ Drums, Percussion


Chili Classics:

The Power of Equality
Breaking the Girl
Funky Monks
Suck My Kiss
I Could Have Lied
Under the Bridge
Naked in the Rain


TO BE CONTINUED…



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user ratings (2656)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

...and thus they peaked. Took me a damn long time to get into this, but it was well worth the effort.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
January 23rd 2010



3766 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best thing the peppers have ever done.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

LepreCon
January 23rd 2010



3882 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album is a fucking straight-up classic
One of my all-time favourites, you did it justice man, pos'd

Digging: Overkill - White Devil Armory

Jim
January 23rd 2010



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice album. nice review.

pos'

Titan50
January 23rd 2010



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Debating whether this is better then Californication or not

Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is definitely better, although I thought otherwise at first.

Eclectic
January 23rd 2010



3302 Comments


formula they had been tuning with for years just about perfect

and had been their first choice since some time

fix up those typos

Other than that it was a fantastic review for a fantastic album, I had the opportunity to get this for $10 but passed it up for Weezer's "Pinkerton". It was a fucking hard choice I must admit.

Titan50
January 23rd 2010



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The immaturity of most of the songs prevent this being a 5

LepreCon
January 23rd 2010



3882 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album was the soundtrack of my youth, practically

Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Other than that it was a fantastic review for a fantastic album, I had the opportunity to get this for $10 but passed it up for Weezer's "Pinkerton". It was a fucking hard choice I must admit.


You should still be getting it in that case. Typos fixed also.

The immaturity of most of the songs prevent this being a 5


Good point, altough I'm able to forgive them for it because they make up with unrelenting funk passion, and great musicianship to boot, of course.


Eclectic
January 23rd 2010



3302 Comments


Can't anymore, I only had $10 at the time, and I can't go back to the store for another year.

Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's confusing.

Dryden
January 23rd 2010



12928 Comments


got this cd for free.

Eclectic
January 23rd 2010



3302 Comments


I was there for a holiday, I found the store but only had enough money for one CD. I chose Pinkerton.

Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ah, like that. Well, you don't have to be in the same place to get it y'know.

Jim
January 23rd 2010



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

michael this is like eternally $10 at every major CD store in the country.

get on it.

Mr. Lizard
January 23rd 2010



632 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"literally catapulted into fame." Misuse of literally.

Nagrarok
January 23rd 2010



8171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

aiight, will fix.

Ponton
Emeritus
January 23rd 2010



5790 Comments


Well done. That's really an impressive user rating distribution given that there's more than a 1000 votes. Pos.

Romulus
January 23rd 2010



8423 Comments


I need to really listen to something by these guys besides the singles that everyone knows. And really nice review, I might start with this now.



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