Lets face it
if you want to be able to break down one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers later albums, youre probably gonna have to take the day off. Because these funky mother-something-or-others turned soulful reflective angels tend to love filling _every_ last minute on a CDs running time. I mean, just take 1991s Blood Sugar Sex Magik as an example. Clocking in at an insane 73:56, one could be forgiven for being completely and utterly intimidated when first approaching the prospect of _listening_ to it, never mind reviewing the thing. I sure was. I mean, Ive had this album for at least three years now, Id say. It probably took me about a year to fully appreciate every minute of its seventy-four, and as you can gather another two years to work up the courage to write a review of it.
See, the really, really great thing about Chili Peppers albums as long as this 2002s By The Way is also a good example is that they dont really waste any of their insane running times with filler tracks and such. I will say that Blood Sugar Sex Magik doesnt _quite_ match up to this claim, but well get into that later.
So what to make of the Chili Peppers career? Well, quite a lot to be frank. Starting off as cheeky (although Im not entirely sure theyre polite nowadays) monkeys who loved to strut around half-naked wearing socks on their nether regions, they pumped out a few straight-up funk albums in the 1980s. But it didnt all turn out rosy; something tragic happened. Then-guitarist Hillel Slovak a best friend to lead singer Anthony Kiedis died due to heroin. As a result, wonder-kid John Frusciante was drafted in and took over duties for 1989s breakthrough effort Mothers Milk. The fact that he only played for two albums (including this one) before almost succumbing to the effects of heroin himself is probably just coincidence. But, as Ive no doubt said in places before, John is an inspiration to the band, and when he was missing for the 1994 harder-rocking outing One Hot Minute, something just seemed to be lacking. Of course, he has since returned, and the Chilis have recorded two career-defining albums (in my opinion) 1999s Californication and the aforementioned By The Way.
Anyway, back to the blood, the sugar, the sex and the magik. Im not entirely sure how heroin-addled the veins of some members of the band were during the recording of this. Personally, I figure that Kiedis would have been an idiot to continue after watching his best friend die due to it, but I could definitely see Frusciante being involved with the deadly drug at this time. However, this is all water under the bridge (heh) as this is probably the bands first career-defining album. Mothers Milk was furious funk tinged with harder rock for the most part, and was really just a stepping stone for the band, bringing them to the edge of super-stardom. On here, they changed up their sound yet again. Still retaining a huge amount of their funk roots, they branched out a little and discovered the world of the ballad on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. And it brought them their biggest hit. Dont get me wrong, their bad-boy side is frivolous and hugely entertaining, but I think that this band is _made_ for ballads. They just seem to write them so well, and perform them with such passion, that they always take a place amongst their best works. However, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is most-part dirty funk, little-part rock ballad, and it works tremendously well. So well that it became their mainstream breakthrough album. Highly deserved, I say.
1.The Power Of Equality - 2.If You Have To Ask - 3.Breaking The Girl - 4.Funky Monks - 5.Suck My Kiss - 6.I Could Have Lied - 7.Mellowship Slinky In B Major - 8.The Righteous And The Wicked - 9.Give It Away - 10.Blood Sugar Sex Magik - 11.Under The Bridge - 12.Naked In The Rain - 13.Apache Rose Peacock - 14.The Greeting Song - 15.My Lovely Man - 16.Sir Psycho Sexy - 17.Theyre Red Hot
Lets jump to that aforementioned biggest hit, and indeed the bands most instantly recognisable tune, Under The Bridge. Occurring at probably roundabout the half-way mark in the album, it is a wondrous, melancholy ballad. Its very true that only those in the band (particularly Kiedis) will fully appreciate the sentiments, and anyone who sings along isnt really understanding the full significance of the song in other words, they dont really know what theyre singing about. Kiedis said this himself when popular 1990s British girl-group All Saints released a very competent cover version of the song. But otherwise, the whole thing is very stirring, and possibly the most haunting thing the band has ever penned. Frusciante riffs away like a master, conjuring up an amazing-sounding intro, which I understand is very difficult to mimic. The whole track is drenched in this firm acoustic, yet almost hazy, glow that is until the end when heavenly backing vocals enter. Here occurs probably the most moving lyrical excerpt: Under the bridge downtown, is where I drew some blood / Under the bridge downtown, I could not get enough / Under the bridge downtown, forgot about my love / Under the bridge downtown, I gave my life away.
There are other more sombre affairs. I Could Have Lied is the saddest thing on here, merely because of the weeping guitar riff that gently caresses its way through the solemn verses. When the choruses enter, things move up to a hefty, twanging strum, and drums slowly and deliberately enter as Anthony croons I could never change just what I feel / My face will never show what is not real. As it is, its another very moving song, if with a hint of bile lurking underneath the surface. An uneasy guitar solo squeals its way into the action later on. Another earlier-occurring song that differs from the general style is Breaking The Girl, a very dense and sprightly affair soaked in bounding bass and acoustic freshness. Its not really a ballad, but its definitely not funk. Which is probably why it was released as a single (cue the opportunity for the band members to dress up in weird all-covering suits and dance about like gimps sorry, Shane). The outro is very nice, methinks, what with its tribal drum beatings and weird popping noises.
The majority of the rest of the album is filled up with funny funk, and the odd sprinkling of straight-up rock here and there. Give It Away is the most popular early funk number by the band, with its catchy bass line (how Flea plays that I dont know), strong echoic drumbeat and insanely funky wah-wahing guitar bursts. Anthony half-raps the lyrics furiously, in such a way that it becomes impossible _not_ to attempt to sing along with him as he slurs Greedy little people in a sea of distress / Keep your more to receive your less / Unimpressed by material excess / Love is free love me say hell yes. See what I mean? Anyway, this resulted in yet _another_ chance for the band to paint themselves up and prance around in a video. They seem to enjoy doing this
My other personal funk favourite has to be If You Have To Ask, mainly because of the insanely catchy chorus, complete with Frusciante interjections: If you have to ask / Youll never know / Funky motherfuuckers will not be told to go. Ooh, risqué. But because its so catchy, and contains a naughty word, it proves to be a bit of a nuisance. The music is just insane. How can you ignore Flea as he dots little blips of bass nonsense all over the place? How can you ignore Frusciante as he makes a one-chord riff sound complex, and unleashes an absolutely ripping, distorted solo? Granted, it takes a while to get going, but once it arrives youll probably be playing it again and again. And again. Other moments of fun include the very dirty and devious Mellowship Slinky In B Major. Pretty cool title, too. Again Flea dazzles with an addictive bass line. But its the choruses that steal the show once more; the bass drives them along superbly. Also, with lyrics like Born to adore the big bad bison / Thunderstorms and a man like Tyson / Popcorn peanuts looking at big butts, how can you fail to chuckle when this one plays?
You know, this CD is proving so ridiculously impossible to summarise that Ive found myself forgetting about a few of my favourite tracks. Funky Monks shall be the first. Its probably a bit of an ego-stroke lengthwise, but its just so damn funky that youll probably never want it to end anyway. If I may say so, the young Frusciante proves to us here why he is the Chilis inspiration. Some absolutely stunning guitar work goes into this song, as the rhythm and tune both chop and change several times throughout. There are lengthy instrumental sections with wailing, screeching solos and dance-your-aass off bass. The choruses are another sure-fire giggle, as Frusciante chips in yet again with his undoubtedly woman-like falsetto bursts. In fact, lets just say that this songs _all_ Frusciante. Hes THE MAN! Moving on to Apache Rose Peacock, we come to one of the more mellow funk tracks on the album. Frusciante is again an absolute beast as he conjures up one of the best riffs Ive heard from the Chili Peppers. And you want risqué lyrics? Well, youve got em in spades here. I wont quote them for the benefit of innocent readers, but theyre pretty inane and childish at points. The main hooks in this one are definitely the bright, bubbly and flowery guitar riff coupled with the random interjections of do-do-do-do-do. Trust me, this is one of the catchiest songs you may ever hear.
The Greeting Song is another standout, and do I even need to say whos the reason for it? You can guess. Lets just say Ive been left with my head spinning trying to keep up with the flying, light-speed guitar riff. And the guitar madness never stops the full track through. So there! Ive said it many times before
and Ill say it again Frusciante is the man.
Its just a pity that a lot of this brilliance is marred by the penultimate track, Sir Psycho Sexy. This whole album couldve been cut down to a nice sixty-six minutes if this slice of nonsense had been left off. Basically, its an eight-minute ego stroke. Filled to the brim with the horniest, most infantile lyrics known to man. Read the lyric booklet if you want the low-down, Im not prepared to repeat them here yet again. The bass has a sloppy, sludgy sound to it, and Kiedis sounds like hes severely stoned or something to that effect. The choruses have more insanity, with Frusicante and Kiedis both warping their vocals to unrecognisable effect. Trust me, this aint great at all. Even seeing them perform this live couldnt bring me to like it.
Being the last true funk album that the Red Hot Chili Peppers released, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is something of a landmark. It also marked the upturn of their fortunes in the popularity stakes. While this one isnt quite up there with the brilliance of Californication or even By The Way and while we couldve done without the eight-minute ego-thon that is Sir Psycho Sexy this is definitely one of those essential albums, and it defines bad-boy funk rock. If you dont mind the occasional juvenile sexual reference, or indeed the occasional f-bomb, then give this one a listen. I think youll either dance your aass off, or become a raving rabid John Frusciante fan, just like me
Excellent: If You Have To Ask, Funky Monks, Suck My Kiss, I Could Have Lied, Give It Away, Under The Bridge, Apache Rose Peacock, The Greeting Song
Good: The Power Of Equality, Breaking The Girl, Mellowship Slinky In B Major, The Righteous And The Wicked, Naked In The Rain, Theyre Red Hot
Average: Blood Sugar Sex Magik, My Lovely Man
Weak: Sir Psycho Sexy
Final Rating: 17/20
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