I'm what you could call a young RHCP fan- having only been strongly drawn to their music for about three years now. Growing up, I enjoyed the same Chili Pepper hits as everyone in the late '90's and early millenium period- Under The Bridge, Scar Tissue, Give It Away, Californication. In college I got the pleasure of the singles from Stadium Arcadium such as Snow, Tell Me Baby, and Hump De Bump. Nowadays, I tend to gravitate toward their album B-sides when I'm not thrusting myself into their new album I'm With You. But that's a review for another day...
What I DIDN'T know until far too late, was that an incredible piece of art known as By The Way ever existed. I truly wish that no one else who had an opportunity to listen would ever miss out on this album.
For the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this was a bit of a change up. The unbridled funk they've always been known for took a back seat as a subdued, soul connection sound came forth. When I listen to By The Way, I tend to be filled with a spectrum of emotions that center around longing, loss, contemplation, and love. Although there are a couple of RHCP's signature songs with lyrics that are more than difficult to dissect, this album is largely full of a new breed of Red Hots- and I love it!
Perhaps the most pleasant aspect of this entire album is the overhwhelming presence of John Frusciante once again. Not only are his guitar riffs and solos alive and infused with his prodigious brilliance, but his voice is harmoniously weaved with Anthony's on several of the tracks. Easily my favorite song on By The Way is 'Dosed" for these very reasons. It speaks of connection and beautiful addiction between people, and it has the most beautifully haunting chorus I may have ever heard. Every time I hear it I wish John was still in this band today. This is a very underrated song, I assure you.
Following the mellow sounds of "Dosed," are tracks like "Universally Speaking", "Warm Tape, and "I Could Die For You," all speaking heavily to the smitten followers of the Peppers. Exploration of a deeper kind of appreciation for love interests seemed to be a pretty blatant subject for By The Way and I'm thankful for that, because it created an opportunity for the band to step outside their Funky Munks exterior and dabble in something more unknown. The result was a series of songs that paved a new path for the band and colorfully described the direction their lives were taking at the time.
It wouldn't be a Chili Peppers album without Anthony throwing down some rhymes to Flea funking out the bass, and of course Chad building up to the perfect chorus. Case in point- " Can't Stop." This song could unmistakably have been from the days of Freaky Styley, Mother's Milk, or Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It's that classic. Everything about "Can't Stop" is magnetic and brimming with incredible energy. I love that the lyrics are really very earthy and grounded, as you can hear how Anthony had begun to turn in the direction of a clean life and sobriety. There are several references to life choices he openly talked about in his book. Examples are lines like, "...so smart she's leading me to Ozone," a reference to his use of a natural gas to cleanse his body from Hepatitis. Another would be, "...worth your weight the gold of meditation," which I have always assumed to be homage to his personal belief in meditating to keep his life in balance which is also mentioned in Anthony's autobigraphy.
Each song has it's own personality and story, carefully crafted to speak whatever message it carries. Some cry of political bullying (Cabron), stale sold out values (Throw Away Your Television), and the dangers of a life of drugs (This Is The Place). Others are more left to open interpretation, such as "Tear", "On Mercury", "Venice Queen" and "Minor Thing," all of which are infectiously catchy and inflitrated with the mystique of Anthony's unique style of authorship.
Truthfully, I don't believe there is a poorly created track on By The Way, and that can't be said for most albums of artists these days. But with a perfect mix of souls and effort, the Red Hots pulled it off. More than anything, this is an album that screams of growth as a band, and as individuals. It's record of a transition from one life into the next. And what an honor it is to be invited along on that journey with them.