1985/12 Musician (86)

Many thanks to Hamish at RHCP Sessions for the scan


Freaky Styley

(EMI America/Enigma)

A white punk/funk rap combo: sounds like a joke,right? Well it was, and to a certain extent still is, and that’s a big part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ charm, if you want to call it that.

Freaky Styley is their second album, and its problems are more frustrating than the usual sophomore jinx, (When it comes to wit, the Peppers are perpetual sophs anyway.) Their debut was produced by ex-Gang of Fourster, Andy Gill, who encouraged then-Peppers’ axeman Jack Sherman to add metallic gristle to already meaty licks. On Freaky Styley, Sherman’s replaced by ex-What Is This guitarist Hillel Slovak (also an original Pepper—for such a young band, they have a confusing history), who replaces Sherman’s explosiveness with stiff chunka-chunka riffing augmented by a wah-wah pedal. Yuck.

Current producer George Clinton, seemingly the perfect  choice to coordinate the band’s oft-obnoxious hijinks, brings out the worst in singer/”rapper” Anthony Kiedis. Clinton’s always appreciated the racial goof, but egging on Kiedis to expand his repertoire of minstrel show affectations while indulging in his sexual braggadocio is just plain dumb. Clinton can’t deal with the band’s dichotomy, either – the funk numbers just sound like funk numbers and the hardcore like hardcore. Part of this band’s point was to make the twain meet, but on Freaky Styley, it doesn’t

All that said- are  you ready?- Freaky Styley isn’t too bad. Bassist Flea and drummer Cliff Martinez (he played on Beefheart’s Ice Cream For Crow, so you know he’s good) are a powerful, flexible rhythm section more than capable of  handling the tricky Meters cover included here (“Hollywood (Africa)”). And some of the jokes are funny. This is far from the killer record the band might have made, but there’s reason for hope. Flea and Martinez have enough real stuff to make the Chili Peppers more than a funk burlesque.

—Glenn Kenny