Formats: Two-track cassette (‘My Friends/Coffee) Four-track CD (‘My Friends/Coffee Shop/Let’s Make Evil/Stretch)
Another one of those moments where the Chili Peppers abandon their hyperactive funk for a loose-limbed slice of acoustic rock. Taken from the disappointing ‘One Hot Minute’ album (‘One Lukewarm Minute, anybody?), ‘My Friends, despite a cool, summery groove and the usual vocal athletics from Anthony Kiedis, sounds strangely bland and perfunctory, falling way short of what the band should be producing with a guitarist like Dave Navarro in tow. Buy it for the two unreleased tracks on the CD, if you really must.
This week’s singles reviewed by Jason Arnopp.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
ONE HOT MINUTE
• Follow-up to 1991’a six-million-selling Blood Sugar Sex Magik
• First Peppers album to feature new guitarist Dave Navarro (formerly of Jane’s Addiction).
,• Produced by Rick Rubin.
WHAT DOES THE NAME Red Hot Chili Peppers mean to yo?, Men in shorts playing brash, soulless funk-metal? Wrongl The Peppers can no longer be dismissed as rock goons from slapbass hell; at least four songs on this colossal (15 tracks!) album are great. The title track is heavyweight rawk but fragile and lovely too, while Warped juxtaposes frantic guitars with a slow Anthony Kiedis drawl in a compelling sonic twist. The bluesy My Friends evokes the culture of drugs and death that surrounds the Peppers and reminds you of Free at their most majestic. Finally, Transcending spooks with a looping, guitar-led fluidity.
All of which makes the rest of the record, with as empty funk twanging, ‘funny’ lyrics (Coffee Shop) and token loony-thrash `joke’ (Blender) that much harder to tolerate. It’s a pity, because if the Peppers could find the strength to shed their juvenile metallic trappings they would surely emerge, butterfly-like, as an elegant and splendid rock band.
CHILIS OVER THE RIVER
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ new album features a song inspired by the death of actor River Phoenix. It’s called “River”. Flea allegedly rode to hospital in the ambulance with Phoenix on the night of his fatal seizure in 1993. Other tracks on the album, which is due out on August 8, include: “The Melancholy Mechanics Of My Mind” and “My Friends”, which was written by Flea and Anthony Kiedis and is described as a slow gentle melodic track in the vein of “Under The Bridge”.
The album is also rumoured to contain superheavy songs, and a classic Chili Pepper funk work-out.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: they have a little patch and they work it with expertise.
• RED HOT CHILLI PEPPER
One Hot Minute
Not so long ago you would have got some pretty decent odds on the Red Hot Chili Peppers not making it this far. The first couple of albums were all over the place. Their original drummer couldn’t hack a life on the road. And when it came to the guitarists, well, they were positively profligate. Yet here they are, four years from their breakthrough, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and their particular boat is probably as stable as it’s ever been. Indeed, with former Jane’s Addiction axe mangler Dave Navarro now seemingly firmly bedded in, their potential for some impressive noise making has never been greater. One Hot Minute, although unlikely to deliver any waverers to their cause, proves that there’s still plenty of life left in the old routine yet.
Although they can now justifiably lay claim to being one of America’s biggest bands, Britain has tended to be tar less susceptible to their charms. Originally written off as little better than heavy metal schmucks who stumbled across George Clinton by mistake, it seems fair to say that this country has never quite known what to make of them. The fact that they embraced the whole of the sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll hog with arms open didn’t exactly help. As for their tendency to drop their pants, flex their pecs and flash their tattoos at the drop of a hat, just what sort of behaviour is that? Repressed, Us, The plain fact is that their take on funk, metal and rap often makes for a mightily impressive, highly physical kind of racket.
With Rick Rubin again producing, it’s the equivalent of a 70-minute full frontal assault. Warped, the opener, sets the scene and the pace with some frantic riffing and a speeded up Bo Diddley beat. Shallow Be Thy Game is, if anything, even more ballistic, while the title track is nothing less than unadulterated, crushing metal. A couple of almost pretty ballads (Friends and Tearjerker) take some of the heat off and, as usual, there’s a bit of prattish nonsense in the shape of the hardcore sprint, Pea, which simply boasts a chorus of, “So fucking what?”. Quire so.
The remainder—and there’s plenty of it— is parpy, dirty white funk of varying degrees of tightness. Forget the head or the heart, it’s aimed firmly below the belt. The lyrics?, Don’t even ask.
After such a long lay-off, those expecting something extra special might be disappointed. Don’t be. The Peppers work their own little patch with considerable expertise. The incoming Navarro rarely fails to deliver the goods and upfront the taut ball of energy going by the name of Anthony Kiedis still makes for a suitably rubbery-lipped frontman, if not exactly a lovable one. A certain grudging respect, however, seems long overdue.