12/1992 SPIN

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Many thanks to Invisible Movement for the scans!


SPIN 1992

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Blood Sugar Sex Magik isn’t just the, title of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ breakthrough LP. It’s the perfect description of their freaky ’92.

COMMERCIALLY, EVERYTHING came together for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1992. They sold millions of records, became household names everywhere in America, headlined Lollapalooza, and showed lots of flesh. In short, they broke big.

Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the disc that did it. Recorded in a haunted house in the Hollywood Hills, produced by a supine Rick Rubin, its patented funk thrash and percolating acid groove was seasoned with stark acoustic confessional. “Under the Bridge” was the song that introduced L.A.’s favorite hard-core vaudevillians to housewives in Kansas; and though there is some sly pleasure in imagining said housewife being treated to lines such as “Blush my lady when I tell her / that I do in-deed love to smell her / Sop-ping wet your pink umbrella / Do the dog with Isabella,” as a breakthrough single, “Under the Bridge” watt Top 40–friendly the way “Smells Like Teen Spirit” never could be.

The Chili Peppers spent last New Year’s Eve headlining San Francisco’s Cow Palace; their opening acts: Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And in many ways, that gig set the tone for all of their year. Their rocky career—nine years, five albums, one EP, the overdose of original guitarist Hillel Slovak, and, yes, maturity—finally came to fruition. When turbulence did visit them in the sudden departure of guitarist John Frusciante, they simply had him airbrushed off the cover of that big music magazine and replaced with Arik Marshall by Lollapalooza time.

In their whirlwind formative years, to see the Chili Peppers rock a sweaty room with that sound that blends funk, punk, hard rock, rap, and jazz into an overdriven omnibus was a revelation. When they would encore with Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” you could feel Jimi’s ghost tattooed on your soul as viscerally as his face was tattooed on Flea’s left deltoid. They brought a suburban mothership home to thrash, and despite the reservations that you had about their personas, you had to give in to the feel.

It’s hard to object to a band that pledges allegiance to Jimi, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, John Coltrane, and Keith Moon, and that writes songs about Indian rights, equality, and overcoming addiction. Likewise, when the ghosts of Sly Stone and Led Zep meet and greet, and references to Billie Holiday, Count Basic, Charles Bukowski, and PE flit through the mix, you know their beans are in the right places. Credit must be given: They appropriated Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” as a thematic coda without debasing it unduly; and Flea is a monster on the four-string, a great musician in rock’s musical pantheon. And just when you began to think that they were a one-joke act visually, Gus Van Sant showed them in the best silver light in the video for “Give It Away.” When you want to scream, they’re not “alternative” (forgive me)—hell, they were in a Nike commercial with that long-haired tennis stud from Las Vegas—there they go and dedicate their record to saintly underground bass god Mike Watt. But then, plenty of people in L.A. are shrewd enough to pledge allegiance to soulful masters while whoring their own talents. Their party-people personas and stroke-me exhibitionism is enough to keep frat-boy pledge drives pumping until the millennium. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis often seems on the verge of selling to Hollywood the ’90s aggro version of that ’60s cliché, the big, dumb, likable surfer knucklehead in all those Annette and Frankie movies; this time around he’s, in his own words, a “punk-rock knucklehead.” Granted, they managed, in this year of alienation and sexual fear and loathing, to make a record that sells positivism without being pious, that celebrates sex and funky good vibes. But now that the guys with the guitars have gotten together with the guys with the samplers, in the language of the Beasties’ superior fusion effort, the Chili Peppers might find time this year to check their heads.

Unfortunately, the Chili Peppers haven’t yet recorded one disc that got it just right. Conte what may for Nirvana, Nevermind’s success was the rock’n’roll event of the year—a breach in the wall. The Peppers continue to throw down a stone-cold raunchy groove, an atomic mosh party, and act out the primal urges of our corners of disintegration. But we’re still waiting on the disc that does their musical and spiritual forefathers’ legacy justice. For now, and the year just vanished, they got live if you want it; maybe next year they’ll get their ya-yas out on vinyl, too. BRIAN KEIZER

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