1990 February Melody Maker

 

 

LOUDER THAN BOMBS

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

ASTORIA THEATRE, LONDON

IT makes sense when it’s loud.

But before I go on, allow me to distance myself completely from the school of Rock Journalism in which sexually frustrated Oxbridge grads attempt, by touch of association, to regain a little vicarious prole “authenticity” through the celebration of cretinism and the elevation of boorishness (see also Happy Mondays, Faith No More, The Pogues, even “A Clockwork Orange”).

For it has to said: as human specimens, Red Hot Chili Peppers have absolutely nothing to recommend them. Spoilt, belching, longhaired, suntanned West Coast wasters bumming around in their underpants and sequined beach shorts- a less attractive display of mankind you’d be hard-pushed to find.

Musically too, I’ve never subscribed to the Worldie’s view that progress is made through cultural miscegenation, cheeky pillaging, etc. these magnificant   New Age hybrids we’re all supposed to be getting into (Living Colour, Dan Reed Network, Lenny Kravitz) are little more than rainbow follies. All the real movies in 1990 are being made by purists, fundamentalists of whatever kind (from A Guy Called Gerald to Silverfish), taking one genre or other to a new extreme.

Too often, RHCP’s pugnacious collision of junkfood punk-funk and recycled rap-metal recalls Level 42 at 78 rpm, Beastie Boys after music college. But like I say, it makes sense when it’s loud. Just about every Chili Peppers song goes like this: a rapid-fire rap in a dumb Hollywood accent, a bassline that feels like it’s being played on your own stretched nerves, lots of choppy Chic guitar and virtuoso sax interspersed with lines like “We’re so good you’re gonna piss your pants”, and the whole thing collapsing into a formless (rather than freeform) jam while Antwan cleans the ceiling with his mane. But the highlight, ironically enough, is “Knock Me Down”: the nearest they ever get to a proper song, its mournful Deadhead chords halfway between Dinosaur Jr’s “Yeah We Know” and, I dunno, the bloody Eagles.

The[y] don’t do the sock trick anymore, but Red Hot Chili Peppers (like Fishbone and countless other LA bar bands) are still the archetypal “good-time” band, and taken on that level (i.e. not a very high one at all) they’re fine. They make what is probably the least cerebral music on this planet, neither taxing the imagination nor inspiring it. I left feeling utterly soiled, debased, and not bad at all.

How low can you go?

SIMON PRICE

 

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