RS #401: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication


Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication

Release Date: 1999
First Time Listen: Not exactly


Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication
Red Hot Chili Poolside

Impressions: Ughh, I was secretly dreading reviewing this album. And then I lost the review I wrote… so now I got to tackle it again. Well, here we go… I was never a huge fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I don’t outright hate them as much as most people nowadays. Their brash ’80s funk/punk sound is completely unfashionable, not to mention the possibly-unfair thinking that they helped inspire the horrible rash of Nu-Metal bands of the late ’90s/early ’00s. Even on the radio, these songs bugged me for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until I read about the so-called Loudness War. Many site this album as a nadir in the recording industry’s race to jack up the decibels of CD recordings so the songs become clipped, distorted and difficult to listen to. (Read the book “Perfecting Sound Forever” for a great inside look at this phenomenon.) Besides the sonic problem, the album suffers from the same maladies that affect all RHCP albums: too long (56 minutes,) too much filler surrounding a few good songs (“Scar Tissue,” “Otherside”), and some moments when Anthony Kiedis dribbles the ball off his foot rapping (“Around the World,”) dishing out clunky rhymes (“Right On Time”) or by being Anthony Kiedis (“I Like Dirt.”) The band is still solid. After returning from another round of rehab, John Frusciante remains a sensitive and versatile guitarist who mixes in some nice slide leads, clipped funk, or wah-wah sounds and hey, Flea and Chad Smith do what they do. When the band acts closer to their age, they sound introspective and have some surprisingly delicate tracks that work (“Californication”) better than the ones where they try to get down (“Get On Top.”) What? 15 songs? Oh man, they should have cut this album in half. The longer they go, the more stars they lose.

Starred Songs: “Scar Tissue,” “Otherside,” “Californication”
Sneaky Track: “Porcelain”
Should this be on the list: No
Replace With: Well, I think 1999’s Flaming Lips masterpiece “The Soft Bulletin” would fit the bill.
Will You Listen To This Album Again: No, unless I lose this review again.

Summary: Marred by mastering problems, overlong and too much filler, but still a few delicate mature RHCP gems in there if you aren’t completely sick of these guys by now (call it the U2 effect.)
Rating: ★3/4 (might get an extra star if I listen to the remastered vinyl version, but that’s not happening)