1985/11 SPIN

Many thanks to Hamish at RHCP Sessions for the scan.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Freaky Slyley EMI Americo/Enigmo

Welcome to the Day-Glo minstrel show, bro, brought to you by the baddest posse of white funk puppies west of the mighty Mississip. These Peppers seem way eager for you to know just how freaky bad they be, so they’ve beamed George Clinton, the Salvador Dali of funk, down from the Mothership to nudge the knobs on their behalf.

Unfortunately, a display of good taste in producers ain’t enough. Frank Zappa produced Grand Funk Railroad, for god- sakes. This record sure sorta sounds like a P-Funk package—it’s full of acidic, throbbing campaigns, laced with metallic guitar fills—but its attitude is strictly Hollywood High, and answers that eternal question: what’s black and white and rude all over?

The Peppers just want to return to some primordial ooze (they’ve even got Fred Wesley’s Horny Horns to help ’em), which is why the album’s first three cuts be about life in the concrete jungle. “Jungle Man” might be a funk hagiography of Chili Pepper bassist Flea Balzary, who’s known to have some aboriginal blood running through his veins. This precedes a Meters cover, “Hollywood (Africa),” and “American Ghost Dance,” an angry song about the genocide of Native Americans by our (white) forefathers.

These days, contending blacknuss imitators gotta fill out their set with signifyin’ monkey business concerning their own bad selves. The Peppers reply to the challenge with “The Brothers Cup,” “Freaky Styley.” and “Nevermind” (“Nevermind the Pac Jam / Nevermind the Gap Band / Nevermind the Zap Band / Nevermind the funk scam,” etc.), though these three songs mercilessly lift licks from the aforementioned. The biggest lift of all, other than that of the P Funk sound, is the Peppers’ all-too-faithful cover of Sly Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” (someone has sweetly etched “For Sly with love” on the vinyl’s inner groove).

Other weirdness: little filler droppings (“Thirty Dirty Birds,” “Sex Rap,” “Lovin’: And Touchin’ “) dot the horizon, while a couple hardcore throwaways (“Catholic School Girls Rule,” “Battleship”) seem to be included for hometown (L.A.) appeal.

Personal favorite: the Peppers’ funkified version of “Yertle the Turtle,” even though they drop the ending from Dr. Seuss’s moral fable.

The results here. you could say, are re-mixed, while the question lingers as to why any bunch of dudes from ethnic group A would so doggedly simulate the stylistic idiosyncrasies of ethnic group B. I thought about that a lot while listening to this record, but after spinning it enough times, the answer, like the spiral groove thang itself, hardly seemed worth considering. Here’s a hint anyway, just for fun: What’s left when you remove the “F” from P-Funk?

—Richard Gehr


Glenn O’Brien, who thought he was too busy to review this album, responds:

  1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha la!
  2. I still don’t see what the San Diego Padres pitching staff being into the John Birch Society has to do with this album.
  3. What Afro-comb?
  4. Did James Brown write ‘Fame (?) David Bowie and John Lennon? 5.
  5. Motley Crue’s Theater of Pain might have been a more honest oeuvre of the feelings of white youth, but … wait, does oeuvre mean work or egg?
  6. I know it’s easy to assume that when George Clinton produces a record that sort of a euphemism his accountant thought up for his making one, but actually the RedHot Chili Peppers had something to do with the making of their own record.
  7. This album is great.
  8. Isn’t it hard keeping track of all of those reservations about something when you’re dancing?
  9. Did John Denver really write “Country Roads” by Toots and the Maytals?
  10. Imitation may be the sincerest of flattery, but not when it comes with twenty-dollar bills.
  11. Songs are not really funk or core or polkas. These abstract terms were invented only for use in clothing stores and should not be applied to a band called the Red Hot anything.
  12. Hey, kids, listen, this is really of the best albums ever. It’s like Archie Bell and the Drells, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Bruce, and the Martha and the Vandels Fan Club and everything. Listen: this Richard Gehr man, I walked by his office the other night, and I don’t know what Depeche Mode sounds like, but from sound coming through that doors it was either that or like drag queens in love on mood elevators playing the synth their parents bought them, which also double as collateral for the (?)
  13. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Glenn O’Brien

Richard Gehr, who never ceases to be amazed at the wrath of a rock crime scorned, gets the last word:

“Pops” O’Brien drooled over these guys in the first issue of this magazine, which is why I suppose is why he takes my 300- word record review so seriously. You see, way back then he wrote that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are “the greatest rock band in the world” because they kick ass live (true) and recorded a “forceful, natty & and sly album: Real Men Don’t Kill Coyores (EMI Records).” And, hey, his well-considered argument even convinced me, regrettably, however, there’s nothing particularly “forceful, natty, or sly” about Freaky Styley. Now, I’m not saying something’s weird with O’Brilen’s earholes or anything, but it does occur to me that a guy who mistakes the Dubub Syndiate’s Tunes From the Missing Channel for Depeche Mode probably wouldn’t recognise boring ersatz black braggadocio, a mock mothership styley if it was sent to him in a promo package from EMI. But of course I exaggerate. Nyuk.