Red Hot Chili Peppers
By the Way


4.0
excellent

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
January 26th, 2010 | 32 replies | 8,371 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Red Hot Chili Peppers continue embracing their poppy side and step into the 2000's with another work of excellence.

7 of 7 thought this review was well written

Red Hot Chili Peppers had made it big in the 90’s. Very big. Not only did they release their two best albums in that decade, one at the beginning and one at the end, with a lot of trouble in between, but the second of those releases introduced them to every single music fan in the world. Californication was home to a big comeback and three really big singles that resulted in the Red Hot Chili Peppers becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. Their latest album sold a stunning amount of 15 million copies, in the end, and because this was largely due to the accessible material, more so than the also well-talked about reunion of the band with guitarist John Frusciante, it was not difficult to foresee the band going down the easy path: the path of popularity. The path that would certainly destroy everything they once stood for.

It would seem this was exactly as things would progress. By The Way, released in 2002, featured even more radio-friendly, melodic material, and not a single song was truly based on the funk rock the band once created. Red Hot Chili Peppers had shed its old skin. And yet, their eighth album did not at all destroy or harm the band’s legacy, or even disconnect them from their loyal fans they had helped to build up with prime funk rock releases such as Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Very little groups have achieved pulling off this kind of direction change with such positive consequences on all sides, and so, it raises an immediate question: what was this band’s secret?

The secret is, simply, that this album was no sell-out. On very few occasions, a change to an accessible sound had been so sincere. Red Hot Chili Peppers did not create By The Way because they got an even greater taste of stardom with Californication; Red Hot Chili Peppers had already changed before that record. As many will know, this is almost entirely due to John Frusciante, who experienced a far more positive outlook on life and music after coping with his severe drug addiction. At first, this band was just crazy. In the late 90’s, this band became optimistic.

What their eighth record simply marks is taking the sound of their seventh one step further. Frusciante acted as creative leader, writing most melodies on the guitar, but also even some of the bass work. He has stated writing the album was one of the happiest times of his life, and that is clearly heard; By The Way is a warm, welcoming album full of sweet, catchy melodies and a knack for sensitivity and emotion. Even Kiedis, known for his lyrics of lust, focuses more on this.

There are only two that would possibly contradict this statement: the opening title track and Can’t Stop. Both mix former and new aspects of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound successfully: they have rapping, aggressive Flea basslines, but also switch to melodic guitar and vocals; all in a fashion that flows quite well. The only moment where Flea takes lead as far as guitar is concerned is Throw Away Your Television, which he brilliantly support with a strong, rumbling bass line. Luckily, the as always talented bassist gets back his spot on By The Way, as opposed of his driven-out-of-the-mix position on Californication. Frusciante is very much taking lead, but Flea can be clearly heard at almost all times.

Melodic balladry is still what dominates the album, of course, and in some songs, the band has crafted some of their best moments yet. Credit goes, as said, mostly to Frusciante, but Kiedis deserves compliments for his vocal work. He already developed his clean vocals on the band's previous album, but on By The Way, he can really carry a song. Nevertheless, he is frequently backed up by both Flea and Frusciante, who, a fact that would have been unbelievable in the 90’s, churn out some very good ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’, fitting with the material. Some of the best moments in the main album style have all been released in the form of singles: Universally Speaking, Dosed and The Zephyr Song. Universally Speaking is the most straightforward of this, and with lyrics such as ‘Nothing better, the feeling is so fine/Simply put, I saw your love stream flow’, it perfectly sums up how accessible the sound of the band has become. Showing by the quality material put out on By The Way, that is not at all a bad thing.

The single best moment remains Dosed, which is best described in a single word: beautiful. With Frusciante’s downright gorgeous and very emotional playing and the unforgettable ‘Way upon the mountain where she died/ All I ever wanted was your life/Deep inside the canyon I can't hide/All I ever wanted was your life’ chorus, so perfect because it harmonizes Kiedis’ voice with Frusciante’s in an indescribably godly manner. If you fail to hear the pure emotion in Frusciante’s voice which he gained with his new outlook on life, you fail to comprehend what drove this band to create an album like this in the first place.

The album is quite long, and towards the end, it allows itself to experiment a tad more. Though these are not the finest cuts on By The Way, some of the later tracks are quite interesting. Cabron is nothing like the band has ever done, played on an acoustic guitar in a strong Latin tone. Tear features almost no guitar parts, instead opting for dominant keyboard playing, and On Mercury is based around eclectic trumpet playing. Even for their perhaps unnecessary present, the tracks once again show a diversity in the band’s sound, one perhaps needed next to all the melodic material.

That, of course, is in the end what By the Way is all about. Some have blatantly called the album a repetition of Californication, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Red Hot Chili Peppers very much expanded on their late-90’s sound, and while embracing pop sensibilities, they managed to create another fine entry in their discography, that certainly ranks among their best albums. At the start of the past decade, the Peppers remained on a good run.

By The Way’s Red Hot Chili Peppers were:

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


Chili Classics:

By The Way
Dosed
The Zephyr Song
Can’t Stop
Midnight


TO BE CONTINUED…



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user ratings (2234)
Chart.
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
January 26th 2010



7957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dosed is sooooo good. Frusciante is the man on this one.

KILL
January 26th 2010



67082 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

never really got int othis album tbh nice review though

Nagrarok
January 26th 2010



7957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Because it's a little too sweet for KILL?

Masochist
January 26th 2010



7901 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is my favorite Chili Peppers album. First one I owned for myself. Both "On Mercury" and "Minor Thing" are severly underrated, but I'm glad you threw "Midnight" on the list of Chili Classics. "Venice Queen" is pretty awesome, too. Thanks for reviewing this.

YOU GOT YOUR BIT PART, MOZART
HOT DART ACCELERATION
POP-ART, PISTOL CHASING
CAT FIGHT INTIMIDATION
ALL OUT INTERFACING
BLACK STAR MOTIVATION
VAMPIRE SUGAR-JUNKIE
DATA BASIN' INFILTRATION

Nagrarok
January 26th 2010



7957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No probs. You didn't know I'm doing the whole disography?

BigHans
January 26th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Some great tracks here, however a great deal of filler. Good job.

Ponton
Emeritus
January 26th 2010



5775 Comments


Well done again. I noticed you put an apostrophe on every "90's". I may be mistaken, but I think you're just supposed to write it as "90s". Pos.

Digging: Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds

renegadestrings
January 26th 2010



1416 Comments


this is the only modern chili peppers album i am without... which is kind of a shame, because i truly enjoyed the singles

BrandNewBoognish
January 26th 2010



1021 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

When this came out I was 15 and kind of dismissed it as being too soft and mellow, but I've realized
now that its actually pretty good. I think that as far as commercial, radio friendly pop rock goes,
this is good stuff. Venice Queen is awesome. This will probably be their last good album.
Problems: some of the choruses are fucking annoying. Exhibit A: Can't Stop. It doesn't fit the rest
of the song at all. Also, Flea is way under-utilized here. It's strange that you think he's more
prominent here than on Californication. It's also worth noting that he almost left the
band during the recording of this because of disputes with Frusciante.


Greggers
January 26th 2010



2375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, haven't listened to this all the way through yet though

Yazz_Flute
January 26th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Universally Speaking kinda sucks man.

The stretch of tracks from 3-7 are all brilliant however, title track too. This is the Place is arguably my favorite here, underrated track. It's either that or Dosed for me.

Digging: Anekdoten - Vemod

Nagrarok
January 26th 2010



7957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I noticed you put an apostrophe on every "90's". I may be mistaken, but I think you're just supposed to write it as "90s".


I think both spellings are possible.

this is the only modern chili peppers album i am without... which is kind of a shame, because i truly enjoyed the singles


I think you'll fully enjoy the rest then.

This will probably be their last good album.
Problems: some of the choruses are fucking annoying. Exhibit A: Can't Stop. It doesn't fit the rest of the song at all. Also, Flea is way under-utilized here. It's worth noting that he almost left the
band during the recording of this because of disputes with Frusciante.


The chorus isn't that annoying for me at all. As for Flea, I think he is much more prominent here than on Californication. But still, yes, this is very much Frusciante's game. I do like SA though, it's a relaxing listen, although not as good as their other material.

Universally Speaking kinda sucks man.

Not one of my favourites either, but it suits the album pretty well.

Thanks for the approval everyone.




Yazz_Flute
January 26th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm in the minority but Stadium Arcadium is my second favorite Chilis album behind BSSM.

KILL
January 26th 2010



67082 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not enough blast beats

Nagrarok
January 26th 2010



7957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Because?

edit: @bodominflames

Of course KILL, I should have known.

BrandNewBoognish
January 26th 2010



1021 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Californication has totally bass driven tracks like Around the World, Parallel Universe, Emit Remmus, I Like Dirt etc. On By the Way it's hard to hear the bass, and when you can hear it, most of the time he's not playing anything particularly interesting because Frusciante went 'no u' everytime he tried to inject a bit of energy.

Romulus
January 26th 2010



8373 Comments


Standin in line to see the show tonighttt

I remember jamming to that on the radio back in the day

Yazz_Flute
January 26th 2010



18735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Stadium Arcadium is just an incredibly chill listen, the year it came out (06?) it was pretty much the soundtrack to my summer. Unlike most others, I enjoy all 28 songs, though there are a couple that do come off as filler (If, We Believe). Californication's first 6 songs are classics, but after that it's a 2.5-3/5 at best. Same with By The Way, after track 7 it really drops in quality with maybe one or two exceptions. Stadium Arcadium may not have any truly classic tracks like "Californication," "Around the World," or "Dosed" (though Wet Sand comes close) but there isn't one moment where I feel the quality really drops. For a 28 song double album that's impressive to me. I'm probably the only one here that feels that way however.

WatchItExplode
January 26th 2010



3072 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dosed is probably my favorite Frusciante moment...and yes stadium arcadium is solid though doesn't quite hit the high points of other albums

Skimaskcheck
January 26th 2010



2360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The first album i fell in love with (/gay) hence the 5 haha.

Still enjoy every moment of this. Except Universally Speaking. Urgh. But it's still a 5.

Excellent review, pos'd.



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