Red Hot Chili Peppers
Unlimited Love


3.0
good

Review

by whitecastle142 USER (12 Reviews)
April 2nd, 2022 | 66 replies


Release Date: 2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Core Four of the Red Hot Chili Peppers reunite to jam out in this unambitious but high-floor effort

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a rocker knocking on the door of 60 years old. You’re a member of a rock band going on its 40th year, one that’s evolved from darlings of the local underground to chart-topping, stadium-filling icons of the mainstream. You’ve lost dear friends to addiction, and come frighteningly close to losing others. You found stability and sobriety while hitting an extended commercial and creative peak, only to be derailed by the second exit of your ingenious but mercurial guitarist. You forged ahead, enlisting a young, creative, energetic musician on guitar, but things never quite fell into place. Now, after more than ten years, your dear friend has returned to the fold, reuniting the group in the unlimited love and joy of playing music together for hours, days, weeks, and months on end.

This reunion is all lovely, feel-good stuff from a human/storytelling perspective, but from a listener’s perspective it’s worth asking: what kind of music should we expect to hear on Unlimited Love? Is this a group of musicians that feels pressure to create, innovate, and push sonic boundaries? Or is this a group of folks who know they’ve got financial stability and nothing to prove musically, and are simply committed to enjoying the ride and jamming out with the de facto family they’ve formed over the decades?

Unlimited Love is very much the latter kind of album. At its core, Unlimited Love is an unambitious jam rock album put together by a group of musicians with boundless talent, effortless chemistry, and eclectic musical tastes, produced by a man famously reluctant to breathe the words “no” or “cut”. In musical terms, this means that the band will identify a central groove and stick with it throughout the (often overlong) runtime of a song. They’ll add some genre-mashing flavors and embellishments, with specific emphasis on funk and punk, but songs seldom depart from the central rhythmic/tonal hook. Highlights of the album are generally those with stronger hooks and shorter runtimes (“Here Ever After”, “Whatchu Thinkin’”) or those rare ones that break from the formula (“The Heavy Wing”, “Veronica”). Predictably, the weaker ones either lack an interesting hook (“She’s a Lover”, “Bastards of Light”) or overstay their welcome (“The Great Apes”, “Aquatic Mouth Dance”). This latter issue is endemic: runtime, both on the album as a whole and on individual songs, is the album’s greatest liability; this listener can’t help but wonder but how tight and energetic this album could be if they went with a producer willing to step up with the occasional “Hey guys, maybe there’s no need for that third verse here.”

The band’s raw talent, of course, helps pick up some slack where the songwriting falters. Flea and Chad Smith remain a creative, airtight force in the rhythm section, and the engineering and mixing on the album is predictably excellent. But, while all 4 band members and the rest of the studio team make memorable contributions on Unlimited Love, it’s the performances by guitarist John Frusciante and vocalist Anthony Keidis that warrant the most discussion. John, for his part, unleashes a dizzying array of styles, tones, and accents in this album, picking up right where the guitar-centric Stadium Arcadium left off. In a non-exhaustive list of styles, you’ve got classic, staccatoed funk licks (“Aquatic Mouth Dance”, “She’s a Lover”); thunderous punk/metal riffs (“These Are the Ways”, “The Heavy Wing”, the bridge of “Bastards of Light”); delicate fingerpicking (“Tangelo”); stadium rock (“Black Summer”, “The Heavy Wing”); electronica/psychadelia (“Not the One”, “Let ‘Em Stay”); and, perhaps most engagingly, full-out blues (“It’s Only Natural”, the outro of “Veronica”). Followers of Frusciante’s solo material will find plenty of callbacks to “The Empyrean” sprinkled into tracks like “Whatchu Thinkin’”, “Let ‘Em Cry”, and “It’s Only Natural”. For guitar enthusiasts, this album is a treasure trove of creative licks, progressions, and solos, which helps to (but doesn’t entirely) compensate when songs get bogged down by formula or overlong runtimes.

Now on to Anthony. The vocalist’s performance is, at best, a mixed bag. Lyrically, he runs the well-worn Anthony gamut from charmingly nonsensical (“Aquatic Mouth Dance”) to abrasively and cringily nonsensical (“Poster Child”) to cringily horny (“Here Ever After”, “She’s a Lover”) to touchingly sincere (“Tangelo”, “Not the One”). It’s vocally and melodically, though, where he can drag down the album. Throughout Unlimited Love, and specifically in an uninterrupted 4-song streak on the back half of the album, Anthony steadfastly refuses to choose vocal notes that aren’t clearly telegraphed by the chords. Where he strives for variety, as in the plodding rap rhythm of “Poster Child” and... pirate voice?... of “Black Summer”, these choices tend to feel more desperate than inspired. And, while Anthony’s vocal chops have never quite matched his frontman charisma, Father Time has crept into the man’s vocal chords, leaving melodic vocals feeling more strained and hollow than they did in yesteryear.

As a whole, Unlimited Love is an unambitious but high-floor effort from a fourpiece that boasts too much talent, too many influences, and too much experience to ever create an album that’s outright unworthy of a listen. Listeners may yearn for a more ambitious, catchy effort like Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Californication. Personally, this listener can’t help but wonder what would happen if the band members ditched the hair dye and directed their talents at crafting more mature, reflective, atmospheric sounds. Still, if you set those sorts of expectations aside and listen to Unlimited Love on its own terms, you’ll be left with an enjoyable, fun album with highlights worthy of multiple listens.

Highlights:

The Heavy Wing
Here Ever After
Veronica
It's Only Natural
Not the One



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user ratings (281)
3.1
good
other reviews of this album
SublimeSound (2.5)
California's legendary modern rock mainstays return to form with an album overpacked with strong mus...



Comments:Add a Comment 
SublimeSound
April 2nd 2022


107 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review. You touched on a lot of strengths and weaknesses that I didn't find time to explore in my own review of this release.

Identifying Rick Rubin as a potential liability was sharp: I agree with your assessment on it. I also enjoyed John's playing, but I think it was too compromised by the relatively uninspired songwriting and structure.

I definitely see myself returning to this to spend more time with the gems you identified, its just a shame that there are more duds here than satisfying grooves.

Storm In A Teacup
April 2nd 2022


45784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just a matter of time before the 3.5 review comes in.

claygurnz
April 2nd 2022


7583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wanted to like this more than I did but I just found it boring.



Some good songs though, Black Summer especially is a jam.

ratcatbaby
April 2nd 2022


135 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

stating the obvious but kiedis really dragged this album down

lucazade22
April 3rd 2022


803 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wish the rest of the album sounded like The Heavy Wing

Em1994
April 3rd 2022


1118 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Bland

Lopan
April 3rd 2022


102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, I don't get the hate it s getting. I guess it is cool to hate on these guys with every album release.

Storm In A Teacup
April 3rd 2022


45784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah it usually is.

Larkinhill
April 3rd 2022


7796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wanted to like this more than I did but I just found it boring.







Some good songs though, Black Summer especially is a jam.





Definitely lags at times. Lots of filler. But honestly even the best RHCP albums still have filler. Black Summer, The Heavy Wing, Tangelo and These Are the Ways are the shit though.

Pikazilla
April 3rd 2022


29797 Comments


All post Californication RHCP releases are pretty much 95% filler.

Larkinhill
April 3rd 2022


7796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All post BTW releases, can’t argue with that.

Pikazilla
April 3rd 2022


29797 Comments


BTW sucked hard

Storm In A Teacup
April 3rd 2022


45784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I haven't listened to btw in full in over 12 years so my 4.5 could be dated

LightAndGlass
April 4th 2022


1182 Comments


By the Way is still a 4.5, don't worry.

WillieD
April 4th 2022


367 Comments


I know a lot of people like to hate on RHCP, and some of it is certainly deserved, but I still look forward to new albums by them. This one I have to say was a bit of a letdown. I thought Frusciante was going to make things even better, but I honestly find his playing on this album less interesting than Josh's. I could hardly tell it was Frusciante playing on most songs. I also don't know why this album needed to be 17 songs, and I'm not one to complain about the length of an album. And while this album isn't as horribly compressed as RHCP albums often are the drums sound weirdly harsh at times. Maybe time will make me like it more, but we'll see...

Fearlessflyer1986
April 4th 2022


229 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's a Chili Peppers album, and it's fine. Whatchu Thinkin' is a jam.

Pikazilla
April 4th 2022


29797 Comments


By the way is still a 1 out of 5, don't worry [2]

benkim
April 4th 2022


4813 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

What was the point in bringing John back? I am massive fan but his output here is pure garbage. Sounded way more ambitious with Josh and Dangermouse in The Getaway.

glorybox94
April 5th 2022


1079 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

obvi not one of their best but I still really enjoy this one. maybe I'm a little biased so what hahahaha

twlight
April 5th 2022


8853 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

really inoffensive album here but nothing groundbreaking. John pumping out some killer guitar tones as expected



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