Review Summary: Frusciante departs and the band starts messing up straight away. 'Oh, wait, you say this is actually a pretty good record?'
While the gaps between Red Hot Chili Peppers releases had always been fairly consistent, being about two years, it wasn’t an easy task for the band to follow up their breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik
. With Frusciante, who had proved to be an immensely talented guitarist, leaving mid-tour, the band had to quickly fill the empty guitar slot with Arik Marshall, who only stayed for touring. After many unfruitful searches for a new guitarist, the band eventually settled on Jane’s Addiction
’s Dave Navarro. Musical interests conflicted however, as Navarro’s interest in funk was little, which considerably slowed the writing and recording process. In the end, it took 4 years from the band’s previous album to release One Hot Minute
. In 1998, three years after that, Navarro unsurprisingly left because of creative differences.
Nevertheless, Navarro made his mark on the album. As opposed to the prominent sexual themes recurring on previous releases, One Hot Minute
is notably darker, taking time to deal with subjects such as drug use and depression (Kiedis had resumed his drug addiction a year prior to the release of the album). Opener Warped
is an immediate mood-setter, and shows definite potential. With its multi-tracked vocals and surprisingly hard-hitting riffs, it shows influences from psychedelic and hard rock, and shows how much difference Navarro had made. Combined with lines such as ‘My tendency for dependency is offending me/It's upending me/I'm pretending to be strong and free from my dependency/It's warping me’
, it successfully conveys its message, and shows a completely different side of the band, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If the band could have filled One Hot Minute
with songs of similar value, perhaps Frusciante’s departure did not need be regretted after all.
But alas, they could not. The album has several other examples of strong material, and even a few career highlights, but is also the band’s most inconsistent album since their debut. Tracks that follow a similar path as Warped
prove to be highlights. The funk/metal crossover, paired with some weird, spacey vocal work on Coffee Shop
turns out to be a winning combination, and the title track, aside from featuring some of Kiedis’ best clean singing on the album, is instrumentally one of the band’s heaviest yet. Shallow Be Thy Game
remains the best cut, combining the traditional funk groove of the band with a very dark layer, like Coffee Shop
bordering on heavy metal, and pacing it up tremendously compared to the other material. But with Kiedis and Navarro drawing all the attention, it is important not to forget about the rhythm section. During the entirety of the album, but especially on Coffee Shop
and Shallow Be Thy Game
, Flea and Smith once again cement their reputation as one of the absolute best rhythm duos in rock, altering their sound to fit Navarro's darker lead, resulting in one of their most aggressive hardest-hitting performances yet. The interplay is, needless to say, still unparalelled.
Like Blood Sugar Sex Magik
, the band’s sixth is also home to three ballads. My Friends
, the first of these, has remained the album’s most well-known song, and it is not difficult to see why. With its sweet acoustic guitar and equally sweet (but also sad) lyrics and vocals (‘My friends are so distressed/ And standing on the brink of emptiness/ No words I know of to express/ This emptiness’
), is of course very appealing to the mainstream audience, but even despite that, it remains a strong and not at all commercialized ballad, truthfully expressing the subject of depression explored on the album. Tearjerker
, a tribute to Kurt Cobain, who died a year before the album was released, and Transcending
are also effective, be it to a lesser extent, and all show diversity in Navarro’s otherwise heavy playing style.
But as said, One Hot Minute
is also far too inconsistent. Six of the tracks, meaning half of the album, do not quite make the mark, and that is, considering the potential the rest shows, even more of a shame. Aeroplane
has annoying lyrics and vocals, especially during the chorus, Deep Kick
is actually pretty energetic during for the most part, but contains an almost-2-minute boring psychedelic intro, Walkabout
carries a slow, deep funk grove slightly reminiscent of Freaky Styley
, but is pretty repetitive, and therefore drags at 5 minutes. The last on-the-verge-of-average track is Falling Into Grace
. Though the song has a pretty interesting atmosphere, due to excessive use of the wah-pedal by Navarro (a recognizable feature on the album that sets him apart from Frusicante), but the Peppers have used female backing vocals in better ways in the past (Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky
), and the chorus is rather weak.
The two worst moments are Pea
and One Big Mob
is a solo moment for Flea, who sings about himself and those who judge him by his size in a comical manner (‘I am a little pea/I love the sky and the trees/I'm a teeny tiny little ant/Checking out this and that/I am nothing/So you have nothing to hide/And I'm a pacifist/So I can *** your *** up/Oh yeah I'm small/Oh yeah I'm small/*** you asshole/You homophobic redneck dick/You're big and tough and macho/You can kick my ass/So ***ing what’
), but the 1:47 track is, like so many before it, just another moment for a laugh, rather than one to be taken seriously. One Big Mob
doesn’t really go anywhere. It starts out with a classic crazy Kiedis rap, but then breaks into a long psychedelic section, only to eventually return to where it started.
With Frusciante having left, One Hot Minute
was bound to be very different. Nevertheless, credit must be given where credit is due. The album successfully explores darker, unknown musical territories for the band, and that brought out a whole new Chili Peppers. The writing is notably lacking in places, whereas Frusciante’s arrival had brought more structure in the department, but when looking through these mishaps, there is quite a lot to enjoy about One Hot Minute
, only two tracks being downright bad. We should be thankful the classic formation reunited for Californication
, but between that record and Blood Sugar Sex Magik
, this one is, to be fair, criminally overlooked.
One Hot Minute's Red Hot Chili Peppers were:
- Anthony Kiedis ~ Lead Vocals
- Michael Peter ‘Flea’ Balzary ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals on Pea
- David Michael Navarro ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Chad Gaylord Smith ~ Drums
One Hot Minute
Shallow Be Thy Game
TO BE CONTINUED…