Breakout albums are always interesting to look at. Some of them are only breakout albums because of one song, while others are truly fantastic albums. Radiohead did not become famous because of the album Pablo Honey; they became famous because of the single off of it, Creep. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who had a fan base slowly growing; only needed one single to click to send them to the next level. However, they made quite a few on their magnum opus, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Released in 1991, the album served as a step away from the grunge revolution that was captivating the nation at the time. Often revered as one of the best albums of the 90s, the Chili Peppers soared to unprecedented heights with this album.
#310 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums List
Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the combination of 4 men's pure energy, emotion, and testosterone. The pure funkiness and groove of the band, although featuring two new members (Frusciante and Smith), is still in full form. Flea is in his prime here, never overplaying the song like he had the tendency to do in earlier albums. Playing a bit less noticeably when needed yet still ripping up the fretboard and showing his pure virtuocity, some of these songs have some of the best grooves ever recorded by the Chilis. The addition of John Frusciante, who played much in a Hillel Slovak style, added a whole new dimension to the actual songwriting. Frusciante plays excellently, just as he always does, combining with Flea to make a great guitar sound. Chad Smith serves as a competent drummer, never really being all that extraordinary, but when was a Chili Peppers drummer ever that great. He keeps a simple beat and allows the instrumentalists to be incredible as always. The last member, the either loved or hated Anthony Kiedis, sings with a, well, interesting style. His tone quality is not the best ever heard, but it is certainly unique. A new song comes on that no one has ever heard, and Kiedis' vocals come on and immediately everyone knows who the band is. He carries a tune, never going out of tune or disgustingly bad. At times, he is rapping, and no one complains about Zack De La Rocha rapping with no tone quality, so the same should go for Kiedis.
Almost every song on this album is excellent, but to save space, I will only describe a few. Suck My Kiss, the fifth song on the album, opens with Kiedis saying "Well, I'm sailing, yeah," and the band comes in, with Flea and Frusciante playing together on a driving line. After going through the line a few times, the line breaks down something a bit simpler. The drums play along with this line, and Kiedis raps a verse along with it. In the middle of the verse, there is a preview of the prechorus, but it doesn't launch into the chorus until after another verse. The chorus, instrumentally, is Flea and Frusciante on the same line again. The lyrics are extremely sexual, at one point just flat out saying "Do me now." After going through another verse and chorus procedure, Frusciante takes a solo while Flea plays the intro riff. The solo is much different than his usual style, as he constantly plays notes. After another chorus, the song closes with everything dropped out except for Kiedis saying "Your mouth was made to suck my kiss."
The best instrumental song on the album, Mellowship Slinky in B Major, opens with a tutti breakdown section. Drums, guitar, and bass all play the same rhythm twice. Then Flea jumps higher on the fretboard and plays one of his funkiest and best basslines of all time. Climbing across all the strings at strange intervals, he plays with extreme confidence and aggression that most bass players do not show. Frusciante sparsely plays, filling in with Flea's line. Kiedis does not rap, but he does not really sing either. After a short breakdown, the groove returns, Kiedis enters his higher range, actually singing. The chorus shows Flea and Frusciante playing the same line and Kiedis aggressively singing. Another verse comes in, and Kiedis makes references to famous albums including Kind of Blue. Following the second chorus, the song reaches an instrumental bridge, Flea laying down a simple bassline and Frusciante playing overtop. The song grooves on the verse riff for a while, then returns to the intro, which also serves as the outro for the song.
Laying off of the intense funk, Under the Bridge is one of the Chili Peppers' most successful singles to date. Opening with clean guitar playing, Frusciante plays through the riff a few times before reverting to chords and vocals come in. He sings about Los Angeles and life in it the whole time. After a first verse, soft drums enter. Kiedis sings through another verse, and bass enters once reaching the chorus. The chorus is instantly recognizable, nearly everyone has heard it. Frusciante plays excellently on this song, adding little nuances here and there. Flea shows he is starting to develop his tranquil style that would be shown to the max in Californication. The drums pick up energy after the second chorus. After a short instrumental section, a women's choir enters singing the chorus with Kiedis singing sparsely. The choir is pretty good, but the production could have made the entrance much more epic than it comes across. However, that will become the most recognizable and catchy section of the song in the listener's head.
These songs describe only a few of many great and enjoyable songs on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. While the Chili Peppers stepped away from playing as many notes and as intensely as possible all the time, this album remains a classic album because of the great, enjoyable music on it and the surprisingly large amount of quality songs on a 19 track album. The only song that is really terrible is the title track. Every other song has something about it that is just funky, catchy as hell, or maybe funny in Kiedis' lyrics. Despite the claims of the album being overrated, I still find the album a classic album, and a must have in 90s music.
Suck My Kiss
Mellowship Slinky in B Major
Give it Away
Under the Bridge
Sir Psycho Sexy