Hillel Slovak was a machine. The man could drive a song from beginning to end and place all the listeners focus on his guitar, because frankly that's all you hear when you become enveloped in early Chili Pepper's work. If not for his funky, charging agressive style the Red Hot Chili Peppers even today with John Frusciante at the front would not pertain to the funk, as much as they could. Hillel was a mountainous pile of potential and pushed it to its limits with his band. Of course, just like the natural course of the world all good things must come to an end. And Slovak really did. Reaching a dead-end brick wall after an addiction to opiates, their guitarist's bitter end defenitely reared the fist of impact and smashed itself into the member's faces. After losing their plug, the band's outlet drops and becomes a depressive loner. With no drummer or guitarist what were Anthony and Flea to do? Well, nobody likes to talk about sad events, so we'll enjoy the past as much as we can. Hillel I think shines the least here more so than ever, but still delivers a fleeting ecstatic package of guitar-play. The other members do what they've always done best (which may not be just what they needed) and these Californian young'ns come up with a real party record, the Uplift Mofo Party Plan.
Early on in the days of funk in California, there were no doubt many bands to choose from for personal preference. Funk can sound exactly the same, but different at once. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were more of an excited band...drawing on punk influence in their songs and spicing it up with their very own version of funk. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
would be on a DJ's dance list at its time, easily. The majority of the bands effort on this album is very upbeat and assertive (thanks almost entirely to Hillel's guitar work). Speaking for majority, the entire album has not a single downing moment, other than the generally unoriginal music its message of sunshine happiness progresses throughout. You'll notice it just as well. Its impossible not to, what with songs like 'Fight Like A Brave' and 'Behind The Sun', you'll be pumping your fist and singing along with a chill attitude, respectively. Well, alongside guitar playing there must come other things. So how is Kiedis' voice on the record? It obviously isn't what your used to, if your a modern-day post-Hillel RHCP fan. Anthony is so much younger. And fresh. His voice resonates with a high pitched rebellious ring, as if this was recorded before he hit musical puberty. Over the years Anthony has matured, both with songwriting and how he prefers his voice to sound, but there lay signs of both kinds of maturity here nonetheless. Alright...a little less. Regardless, Kiedis fortifies a funky persona and sings to a moving crowd.
Despite the obvious excitement and danceable routine on the record, the Chili Peppers were not as evolved as they probably should have been at that point. Alot of the music relies heavily on the hooks that Hillel delivers, and broadly showcases its severe lack of depth. Nothing found on the album can be labelled as new, original, unheard of or in any way special. It seems as though their guitarist was trying to slay the generic beast and break out the band all by himself. Of course its debatable whether this is possible, but as in the Red Hot Chili's case we know it didn't happen. John Frusciante paired with Anthony did that for the band later on. Any formula they try ultimately fails and produces some of the most bore-infested funk on the planet. If it weren't for Hillel the entirety of the album should have been avoided by all. It was most defenitely surprising to observe such a gifted player aiding such a droning band, with the exception of Flea. Those two sound very out of place amidst the overdone drumming and flying vocals. These kids knew how to play, just didn't know where. Or when.
With the exception of songs like Fight Like A Brave, Behind The Sun, Me & My Friends and No Chump Love Sucker, the rest of it is a largely sad attempt at funk music. Namely these:
Special Secret Song Inside:
I'm not inclined to distributing the real title of this song, as it may call for censors. But this watery, boring, terribly written surprise was nothing more than a feeble shot at filler (if that makes any sense). There isn't much redeeming about the track sans Flea's bass and Hillel's funky riffage. But as usual, thats what describes the good parts of any song on this album. Kiedis displays his voice at its most repetitive, and brings down the song by such a high amount. If it were judged in terms of points, like a sport...Anthony would be the guy to get the total crap beat out of him after the game. Scraped in the locker room. Unfortunately, Hillel defies him and tries to save the song, and while it sounds acceptable for a bit the song ultimately destroys itself regardless of who's playing on it.
Holy God of repetitiveness, is there bretheren of you? I think I've found it. Funky Crime is much like SSSI, lacing together the same old bull that makes up the horrorshow of this record. Kiedis employs one of the worst lyrical displays I can claim to have read in my entire life, and accompanied by a cheesy funky voice he trys to redeem these words but is quickly shot in the stomach and dies a slow, painful death. Much of the song sounds like something the band originally wrote to be a soothing tune, but warped it into an ear-writhing scrape of music. Monotone rules this track, and the rest of the band members do next to nothing to redeem themselves. Almost just as guilty as Anthony, his backing probably accepted the consistent suck in the first place and gave up early as he continued to throw out his voice.
Being so close to it on the tracklisting, Backwoods draws heavily on the characteristics that initially brought down Funky Crime. Anthony tosses around some cheese and Flea keeps it bouncing around the studio with his continuous bassline. Hillel creates a wall of sound and in a way smashes any expectations people would have of him as a player. It isn't like him to be so generic and boring, and constantly overshadowed by Flea. Speaking of which, that happens a few times too many on the record. Especially on this song, Hillel's work had to be downgraded and pushed aside so Flea could produce some
hook for the songs.
Walkin' On Down The Road:
Employing a Seinfeld-esque bassline and terrible Drum/Vocal arrangements, this is argueably the worst song on the entire record. Quite possible the downpoint of the full-span career of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here the band tries to recapture the attitude of a crowd and chants looping licks with that echoe to them as if it was being sang at a local bar in downtown 'Frisco. This song is more like a wave of repeats than anything else on the record, constantly going up and down, up and down, then splashes at the end. Repeat. Likely one of the easiest models of filler
available on the market, cake to realize at simple a passing glance. I think the band truly, truly ran out of things to play. This isn't the kind of filler where it sounds like it had potential at first, but was brought down quickly. Nope, the plane didn't even lift off here. Exploding on the strip is 'Walkin' On Down The Road'.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were once a band of high funk stature. With their first couple releases, they showed immense potential and explosive attitude twoard the music going on at that time. They offered a revolution, but it wasn't grasped at the right time. Most likely because of the poor effort of the album at hand, the RHCP failed at moving an entire audience and just joined hand in hand with the mainstream work of that age. With Hillel's death, I suppose the band was heavily discouraged and could not produce the same quality of funk that they initially set out to. But Mr. Slovak was still alive at this point, and to create such a winding chasm of mediocrity so close to his death is a crime in itself. I think the man deserved much better to go out on. Of course I, nor you ever knew him personally so we cannot decide what was best for him. Maybe he enjoyed it? Who knows. He sure looked happy in the liners in the booklet. Its all about the music though, regardless of your attitude. Alot of music is developed under the influence of several drugs and feelings,
so I imagine the band was into a laid back attitude at the moments in duration of recording Uplift.
Pretty damn laid back too, to not care so much as to make an consistent album. It isn't littered throughout either, the goodness I mean. It had a rocketing start and then persisted too much; crashed and burned. All in all it was a typical Chili Peppers effort, and destroyed the concept of modern funk. Speeding it up a bit, the band evolved into what they are today.
R.I.P. Hillel Slovak 1962 - 1988
Vocals: Anthony Kiedis
Guitars: Hillel Slovak
Drums: Jack Irons