Red Hot Chili Peppers
Californication


4.5
superb

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
January 25th, 2010 | 660 replies


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A band re-ignited, and a passion revived.

However brilliant Blood Sugar Sex Magik might have been, it’s aftermath was felt by the entire band for the remainder of the 90’s. Frusciante was basically a wreck, although still establishing his solo career, and the remaining three members experienced just as much difficulty, having to find a replacement for him, a seemingly impossible goal to achieve. Follow-up One Hot Minute, which they recorded with Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, was a surprisingly great record (though one with its share of flaws), but yet something was missing. Everybody, including Frusciante, had felt the need to get back together, and when Flea came to the guitarist with the proposal of a reunion, he happily accepted. Thus, it was that Red Hot Chili Peppers was complete again towards the end of the 90’s, and in the decade’s last year, they released the record that would set them indefinitely on the map once more: Californication.

Not only was their new and seventh studio album paired with the reunion of the classic formation, it was also very much a turning point for the band. Calfornication enters a wholly new path, one only hinted at on the band’s previous two records. Not so much crazy funk rock for the boys, but rather a clean, melodic and therefore accessible setting was going to do the trick this time. Luckily for the band, it was also going to be one of their best records yet.

Frusciante’s progress had been simply remarkable. To fully understand how the transition between the heavier Blood Sugar Sex Magik and smoother Californication came to be for the guitarist, it is vital to know about the musician’s life in the period between those two albums: the majority of the 90’s. When he returned to his home in the summer of 1992, Frusciante entered a deep depression, which he unwisely best thought to medicate with heroin. When John was on drugs, he was happy, and for a long time, he never even felt guilty about it. According to him, doing drugs was ‘making sure you stay in touch with beauty instead of letting the ugliness of the world corrupt your soul’. Clearly, Frusciante was steadily losing his grip on reality. It was during this period that he recorded his two first solo records, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt and Smile From the Streets You Hold, both rooted heavily in psychedelic rock.

Eventually and inevitably, John’s drug habits would be getting the better of him, and he became extremely unhealthy. In 1997, after five years of addiction, Frusciante tried to quit all at once. Failing, he checked into a rehab clinic to rid his problem for good. Though forever walking with the scars of his past, Frusciante’s difficult journey was to lead him to new beliefs, which, in turn, would inspire all of his work to come. In the period after his addiction, John embraced the spiritual. He does not look back on his drug addiction as a necessarily bad period. For him, it had caused a complete rebirth, changing his life and his music:

‘I don't need to take drugs. I feel so much more high all the time right now because of the type of momentum that a person can get going when you really dedicate yourself to something that you really love. I don't even consider doing them, they're completely silly. Between my dedication to trying to constantly be a better musician and eating my health foods and doing yoga, I feel so much more high than I did for the last few years of doing drugs.

At this point I'm the happiest person in the world. These things do not *** with me at all, and I'm so proud of that"you don't know how proud I am. It's such a beautiful thing to be able to face life, to face yourself, without hiding behind drugs; without having to have anger towards people who love you. There are people who are scared of losing stuff, but you don't lose anything for any other reason than if you just give up on yourself.’


John Frusciante, a man reborn. Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band reborn.

If you grew up in the 90’s, you’ve undoubtedly heard the singles from the album. Many of the songs will be instantly familiar, and are exactly what the new Chili Peppers stood for. This renewed accessibility was caused by a simple shift in the band’s dynamics. For the first time in the band’s history, the lead section really starts to outdo the rhythm section. Because of the massive change that he underwent in his life, Frusciante’s playing had become far and far more optimistic, as he lays down one excellent melodic line and solo after the other. But as significant as his new approach may have been, it is not the only thing that defines Californication.

Who’d have thought that, 10 years ago, Anthony Kiedis would ever be able to sing clean vocals with such expression and almost, sweetness? (granted, he is backed up regularly by Frusciante) The choruses to the three hit songs, Scar Tissue (‘With the birds I’ll share/ this lonely view’), Otherside (How long, how long will I slide/ separate my side, I don’t/I don’t believe it’s bad) and the title track (‘Dream of Californication/Dream of Californication’) are instantly recognizable, even if Kiedis’ lyrics got almost painfully abstract on this album, and will be bound to be stuck in your head for some time. Though all of them have been overplayed, the sheer appeal remains clear.

Kiedis and Frusciante continue to dominate most of the tracks. Cuts such as Easily, Porcelain and This Velvet Glove are led almost solely by Kiedis' vocal melodies and Frusciante’s guitar, and songs with rougher parts, such as Emit Remmus, give little time for Flea and Smith to show their skill.

This, however, is not entirely to blame on balance in the band themselves. Digital recording was booming in the 90’s, and in accordance to the ‘louder = better’ ethic of many record companies, Californication was overcompressed. Because everything is loud, it is hard to distinguish the lines in the music, as opposed to the production on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Given the more accessible nature of the record , however, this is not as big an issue as it would have been on earlier records. That doesn’t mean bass and drums fail to appear at all. Moments such as the intros to Around the World and Parallel Universe, as well as Otherside and Get on Top, remind of how well the ryhthm section plays together. Still, it is a subpar representation of what they can do.

Aside from these missteps, Californication tends to remain rock solid. The only other thing is that, though they are still very decent tracks, songs that tend to borrow off traditional RHCP-style, such as the rap-dominated Get On Top and I Like Dirt, fail to fit in completely with the dominant accessibility of the album. With later cuts such as Purple Stain and Right on Time, however, the band makes up for it in successfully mixing their early and later styles.

Californication closes with the beautiful Road Trippin’. Solely made up of Frusciante’s acoustic guitar, Kiedis’ relaxing voice and a less prominent but fitting organ appearance, the track is a testament, not only to the new style the Red Hot Chili Peppers embrace at the end of the 90’s, but also to a now more positive and upbeat outlook on music. Especially from Frusciante, you can hear a passion that simply wasn’t there to begin with. As he went through a shift, so did the band eventually with him. Without John’s rebirth, there would not have been anything close to Californication at all. For that, it will remain one of the best records this band has ever created.

Californication’s Red Hot Chili Peppers were:

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


Chili Classics:

Parallel Universe
Scar Tissue
Otherside
Californication
This Velvet Glove
Road Trippin’


TO BE CONTINUED…



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user ratings (3025)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Didn't have an easy time writing this. The Frusciante part may be too long but I felt it was necessary.

Piglet
January 25th 2010


4654 Comments


anybody watched rage last night?

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2010


31215 Comments


Nah I like it. I feel the history lessons can be really good, especially when they're relevant to the album, which in this case is the return to glory for the band as a whole and for John

My only gripe, which is nothing to do with you, is the way Sputz handles quotes. Pos'd, easily

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I changed that to just italics already.

Ponton
Emeritus
January 25th 2010


5793 Comments


Indeed, very nice review. The history aspect is certainly a good thing here and helps you drive your points home really well. Pos.

Douglas
January 25th 2010


9110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mega fantastic review. pos'd.

Digging: The Preatures - Blue Planet Eyes

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2010


31215 Comments


Looks much better too. Another reason why it isn't an issue, is because even though you're reviewing every rhcp album seperately every one knows you're doing the discog. There's a continual story going on, and every discog series i've seen (bar that godawful series on EVERY Queen album) the history becomes even more beneficial and serves the reviews quite nicely

EVedder27
January 25th 2010


6088 Comments


Fantastic review Nag. The Frusciante part was very interesting and not at all uneccessary. Album is one of my all-time favorites. Do wish that you recced my favorited off of this though, This Velvet Glove.

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aye, I love exploring the history of a band, and their progress. There is always a reason and a circumstance for the sound of a record. Ironic, I always hated History at school, but I love every bit of history when it comes to music. And yes, that Queen discog was damn awful. He didn't even listen to any of the constructive comments ('yeah, I'm going to use the comments in my next discog, 'cuz I want to keep this one in the same style'). Idiot.

And thanks for the approval as always.

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Totally forgot about This Velvet Glove Mike. One of my favourites as well, actually. Added.

Greggers
January 25th 2010


2375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review Nag, since you started this discography I've been getting back into the Chilis in a big way. I feel like I'm 13 all over again

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad to be of help ;)

I'm definitely taking a short break after this discog and my 100th. Part of the next discog is written up already anyway.

BigHans
January 25th 2010


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great job, I think this is your best one so far.

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My best one in the series or my best one overall?

BigHans
January 25th 2010


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best one overall from ones I've seen. Granted, I haven't read all of yours, I think I joined in September.

Nagrarok
January 25th 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been writing since '08, but my reviews only started becoming good somewhere in the Judas Priest discog, imo anyway. Reading my old reviews takes me back, I'm a much better writer now.

LepreCon
January 25th 2010


4106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review
2nd best RHCP album IMO

LeotardMessiah
January 25th 2010


374 Comments


Too much history. But props for mentioning the overcompression problem

BigHans
January 25th 2010


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like the history part, makes the review more epic.

LeotardMessiah
January 25th 2010


374 Comments


Yeah but people read reviews to hear what the album sounds like. In this review I had to wade through a ton of history before getting to the music part. I'm not being an asshole, just offering my point of view.



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