There are two types of “classic” albums in music- The ones that make music more enjoyable to listen to, and the albums that are revelations in their own right. In 1991, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, an LA based funk-rock outlet that made it big with their successive LP, Mother’s Milk, were about to make it even bigger with an album that exposed the world to raucous, bubbling funk. The album, entitled Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was an upbeat ode to struggle. The band was no stranger to hardship, having a guitarist overdose on heroin and the immediate departure of a drummer, but it seemed as if the Red Hot Chili Peppers disregarded their loss, and moved on ahead. Mother’s Milk saw the neophyte presence of John Frusciante and Chad Smith, the band’s new guitar player and drummer. Continuing into the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band took an unorthodox step in the production of the record. Relying on Rick Rubin behind the boards, the band ventured into an old mansion in the heart of Hollywood. The band would become reclusive, seldom venturing outside, and consuming massive amounts of cannabis. Only Chad Smith did not live in the mansion, citing paranormal activity as his main reason. But the presence of ghosts hardly took away from the production of the album. In fact, for such low budget recording, Blood Sugar Sex Magik still remains one of the most well produced albums of alternative rock. Blending deep, funky grooves, hip hop rapping, and different elements of rock, Blood Sugar Sex Magik and its seventeen tracks are what some consider to be the defining moment of a band whose career would be pushed into overdrive.
I want you to carefully analyze the four subject matters that make up the record’s title. Blood is a red bodily fluid that is responsible for life. In musical terms, this means a presence of heavy groove and precise rhythm. Without blood, a living organism would die. As in a song, without a groove, you have no foundation on which to lay more complex and interesting sounds. Sugar is a substance in which energy is derived. The Red Hot Chili Peppers possess an energy that is even superior to most punk bands of their time, and is fed to you in waves within their music. Sex is a physical and mental stimulant that brings overwhelming pleasure to the mind and body. It is a topic that does not go without notice, whether it be through profane lyrics, deep, raunchy grooving, or simple songwriting about love. Magic(k) is essentially a psychological nirvana that seems extraordinary to human. With all these things, you are presented something of great importance to the band- Something magical.
Surely enough, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is made up of all these things and stimulates you in each way. From the explicit cover artwork, to the bare bones grooving between all four members, Blood Sugar is radically a masterwork of a band that accepts no margins. An array of sounds is encompassed throughout the duration of the record, from the pseudo-blues rock on I Could’ve Lied to the all out dirty porn groove on Sir Psycho Sexy, and even the occasional tender balladry on the likes of Breaking the Girl and Under the Bridge. Each member in their own right contributes their own special flavors to the overall sound. John Frusciante’s hard rock-meets-funky blues guitar playing is hypnotic, utilizing whammy, wah, and different effects to put the listener in a guitar laden trance. Anthony Kiedis utilizes his rapping for the most part, but occasionally breaks down into a subtle, pretty boy voice. In my honest opinion, Kiedis is a very talented lyricist, whether or not most of his lyrics can be painfully abstract. The real shining light of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, though, is the rhythmic foundation on which these features are built. The grooving between Flea and Chad Smith is impeccable. On the band’s past album’s, Flea was known to exercise his frantic slap/pop technique, but on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Flea stays clear of slapping throughout most of the album. Naked In The Rain is the only exception. However, Flea’s basslines are truly head bobbing, while Chad Smith fills the auditory gaps with strange offbeats and open hi-hat rhythms, as well as some amazing drum beats.
With all the sexually driven funk that adorns this record, it is almost ironic that the stripped down, slower paced songs are the highlights of the album. I Could’ve Lied- Anthony’s ode to his broken relationship to Sinead O’Connor- is among the best. John trades his Stratocaster in for an acoustic, with Anthony’s melodious vocals. The guitar solo, which harmoniously uses the melody to solo around, is beautiful. Breaking the Girl is a folksy tune with random percussion and some gorgeous backing vocals. Under The Bridge, what may be the most famous song on the album, is the operatic tale of heroin addiction in Los Angeles. Frusciante’s mother provides some soaring background vocals in the bridge. Additional highlights include the entendre laden funk opera, Sir Psycho Sexy, the funkiest of all, Funky Monks, and the eclectic jam of Mellowship Slinky in B Major.
Blood Sugar changed the Chili’s career forever, becoming their most successful album, as well as another breaking point for the band, as John Frusciante would leave after the release, spiraling into heroin addiction. Whether or not Blood Sugar is their best album is debatable, but it is undeniably deserving of all the love, fanboyism, and hype.