1989/11 SPIN

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Mother’s Milk


Obviously the June 1988 death of king-funker and guitarist extraordinaire Hillel Slovak has had a very intense effect on not only Chili Peppers’ music, but their general direction as well. On ’87’s Uplift Moto Party Plan, they bowed to no one. Lyrics like, “No chump love sucker,” and “I do what I wanna do” paralleled the band’s piss-on-authority attitude.

In 1989 a much tighter, more mature group emerges. What are we to think when Anthony wails, “If you see me getting mighty/if you see me getting high/ knock me down?” Along with these toned-down lyrics, an instrumental, “Pretty Little Ditty,” descends upon us, a total deviation from the flippant Peppers sound. Is this necessarily bad? Are they going the route of Air Supply lull’n’ roll, losing their in-your-face attitude? Don’t believe the hype.
As much as the Chili Peppers have turned down the flames these last few years, they certainly have not turned into Bush-era rockers. The old Peppers sound—an incomparable mix of funk, punk, rap and hardcore—comes knocking with “Magic Johnson.” Imagine one part marching band and one part funkadelic Peppers and you have a picante rocker that overwhelms even a Celtics fan. “Good Time Boys,” the opening track, starts out as a typical funker, then midway samples X’s “White Boy,” Fishbone’s “Bonin’ in the Bone Yard” and Thelonious Monster’s “Try.” It’s an aural history of LA rock through sampling, in the style of De La Soul or the Beastie Boys.

What’s made the Red Hot Chili Peppers one of the most decadent, untamed bands of 80s isn’t their fuck-you attitude (the Replacements have already cornered that market); rather, it’s the inclusiveness of their out-of-bounds party. There’s nothing they won’t do bum the house down. A little dash of mother’s milk helps put out the fire.

—David Bourgeois

Many thanks to Hamish at RHCP Sessions for the scan.