1999 Californication clippings
The Spice Boys
Rawer, ruder and primed to perform. And the record’s not bad either, says James McNair.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Guitarist John Frusciante— who last played on 1993’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik — returns to replace Dave Navarro. Rick Rubin produces.
IN THE days before Viagra, people used to take the funk— Parliament, JB, Maceo P. In the unlikely event that Roy from EastEnders is reading this, might I suggest that he procures a copy of Californication. Played loud and mixed with a little summer, the Chili’s latest riff-fest should awaken even the rustiest of wedding-tackle. From the distorted bass opening of Around The World onwards, this is a rawer, ruder record than 1995’s One Hot Minute. It’s also one that goes some way towards reasserting the key funk tenets of 1985’s Freaky Styley (with producer George Clinton). Dave Navarro is undoubtedly a fine guitarist, but this record is a clear reminder that Frusciante’s taut palette of in-the-buff tones oils the Chili’s engine more effectively. Anthony Kiedis, mean-while, is still busting idiosyncratic rhymes with kudos. His bluely, slack-jawed drawl on Scar Tissue is a rapper’s delight, and it’s beautifully underpinned by Flea’s loping, elastic bass.
Titles like Get On Top and I Like Dirt might wear their hominess like a badge, but it’s not all shagging. Both Porcelain and Californication demonstrate that, when the blood finally gets back to their heads, the Chilis are socially aware chaps. Though the latter song’s title is a bit of a cheap gag, it’s refreshing to find some Americans with a handle on Hollywood’s cultural imperialism. Porcelain seems to refer to the misleadingly soft skin-tones of the smack user. It’s soporific guitars and close-miked vocal act as a sonic metaphor for the mind-set of a woman lost in her latest hit.
Whatever nightmarish spectres the words ‘white funk’ might evoke for you, the Chili Peppers’ characterful, tongue-in-somebody-else’s-cheek approach still hits the spot. Be careful where you listen to this record, and in which trousers.
James McNair talks to Anthony Kiedis.
How significant is it having John Frusciante back on board?
“I’d lost all contact with him after he left, so to get him back as a friend and a band-mate was more than I could have dreamed of. The interplay between Flea and John is quite unique, I think, and now the chemistry’s right again. Until John rejoined, Flea was right at the end of his Chili Peppers’ rope.”
The track Californication has more lyrical weight than its title might suggest.
“(Laughs) Well, it’s a new word, so it’s open to interpretation. For me it’s about the process of the world being affected for better, for worse, for ugly, for beautiful by the art and culture that is born in this State.”
Porcelain sounds like a bit of a departure.
“Yeah, that would be safe to say. The great thing about this band is that we can play everything from jazz to whatever and it still makes sense. The song’s partly about this woman I know who lives at the YMCA in Hollywood with her daughter. Mum’s in a haze, strung out on heroin, but the little girl’s this beaming-wide sunball of an angel. The woman loves her daughter, but the juxtaposition of their energies is profound.”
I loved the string arrangement on Road Tripping.
“It’s actually a Chamberlin. We were going to get John Paul Jones to arrange some real strings, but he sent us a budget that was probably equivalent to what Led Zeppelin spent on their first two albums (laughs).”
You guys are renowned for your energetic and athletic live performances. Are your pecs pumped and ready?
“I’ve been swimming long distances for the last couple of years, John has been doing yoga, Flea’s been running up in the hills where he lives, and Chad’s just an all-round sportsman. We’re hot to trot.”
From Uncut magazine
RED NOT CHILI PEPPERS CALIFORNICATION
WEA Records * * * *
Entertaining return to form from aging punk rockers
AFTER 1995’s disappointing One Hot Minute – a turgid, metal-heavy affair, the soundtrack to a band at odds with themselves and each other — pivotal member John Frusciante has returned to the fray. Their musical equilibrium of punk and funk restored, the LA quartet are as driven and energised as on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, from which much of the dynamic, feel-good fusion of Californication is drawn.
Anthony Kiedis’ lyrical scope eschews the wallowing, “I’m fucked up, me” self-pitying that made much of their last release so tiresome. Heaven forbid, he even sounds content at times, less at odds with Middle-America. Album-opener “Around The World” is trademark Chilis, all loose-limbed plank-spanking and stutter-rap vocals (essentially, “Give It Away (Part 2)”), while “Right On Time” — a funk-rock take on Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” — pairs hip-shaking disco suss with chunky riffola. It’s rather good.
“The Californian animal lives again,” croons Kiedis on “Emit Remmus”. Indeed it does. As it chews away with a provocative glint in its eyes, you can’t help but be seduced. A most unexpected return. Jason Riley