2000/11 Spin

Many thanks to Hamish at RHCP Sessions for the scan.




It’s never happened in the pages of this magazine, but let’s just concede that Scott Weiland is a punk: Scott Weiland—what a punk! Here he is, in band this far from Ugly Kid Joe, and all he can do is criticize. “The Red Hot Chili Peppers/Stone Temple Pilots tour is not some prepackaged rock thing,” he grumbled onstage. “If you want that, there’s plenty of tickets for Creed.”

But this was precisely a prepackaged rock thing, the bands’ charmingly goofy Mohawks not withstanding. The only question was what kind of prepackage. STP wanted a good ol’ stadium pledge of allegiance from the fans, but all the band earned were rockets and red glares. Perhaps because Weiland’s aloof poses and coiled snake dancing demonstrated no emotional connection to the hits from Core and Purple. Ironic distance might work for Mick Jagger, but STP have always relied on impressionistic bigness over real substance—try distinguishing ‘Big Empty’ from “Interstate Love Song.” “All right, here you go,” said Weiland, and the crowd finally woke up to sing “Plush.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, on the other hand, understand what prepackaged rock is all about. Guitarist John Frusciante’s return has made them comfortable in the Aerosmith role of slightly cartoonish elder statesmen. “Scar Tissue,” “Otherside,” and “Californication” aren’t very distinctive either, but as the teardrop solos floated out over the Atlantic, it didn’t seem to matter. Though RHCP don’t write great funk rockers anymore, they still have BloodSugarSexMagik to draw on. And when that’s not enough, they just get silly, resurrecting romps like 1987’s “Skinny Sweaty Man” or crafting a new oddity like the Depeche Modish rave-up “Right on Time.”

Even RHCP fans find their lyrics a bit, shall we say, “porous,” and Anthony Kiedis may be the only singer in rock with a vocal range narrower than Lou Reed’s. (From “Around the World” to “Soul to Squeeze,” he hits the same sweet spot.) I’m not even sold, at this late date, on their supposed forte—still not funky alter all these years, you might say. But they’ve always had a knack for staying relevant—a little mainstream, a bit alternative, black, anthemic, committed, and stoned silly. They probably could’ve thrived in any era—as a skiffle band if need be. And unlike STP, they still somehow seem to enjoy doing it.