Nick Cave famously said, “I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the f**k is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” With their 11th studio album out this month, two NME writers make the case for them being the best, or worst, band on the planet
5 reasons to love Red Hot Chili Peppers
They’re made entirely of sex
Well, at least 96.4 per cent. They live in Californication. They’re in constant infringement of public decency laws requiring them to wear at least one sports sock each at all times. And, in song, they make Russell Brand look like McLovin – there’s so much giving it to your mama and ‘zephyr’ innuendo going on, you’d think they stole all their lyrics from texts sent in to Babestation. Like Gene Simmons minus the make-up, they’re shameless shaggers and that makes their live shows a feral, fundamentally seamy experience that all funky horndogs – which, let’s face it, is you and all your friends – can relate to. Don’t take a potential partner along before date five, though, they’ll run a mile.
They’re making the world a better place
Beyond their Olympic-level bedroom undertakings, RHCP are a social and political force for good. ‘Californication’, for instance, was more about Hollywood spreading false fantasies of perfection than David Duchovny Netflix-and-chilling his way through most of LA, and such issue-raising bleeds into their activist leanings. They’ve headlined fundraisers for Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, spoken out against US gun laws and Native American issues and played charity shows for cancer causes and victims of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, it’s like your Tinder hook-up rushing you out of their flat to vote, but we salute them.
They still knock out hits
Like Oasis, every Chili Peppers album comes with at least one certified mega-banger attached. ‘By The Way’, ‘Dani California’, ‘The Zephyr Song’; even through their ‘difficult’ third decade the quality of their singles has dipped as little as their sex drives. Even ‘Dark Necessities’, the Chic-like first single from new album ‘The Getaway’, has the scent of a RHCP classic, its disco-noir groove giving way to a middle eight so Beatledelic you suspect they intended it to be their ‘A Day In The Life’. Or rather ‘A Day In Your Wife’.
They’re testing their boundaries
Anyone that’s sat through one of RHCP’s month-long festival jam sets dreaming of a swift and merciful death might think the band are stuck in a funk-rock rut. Not so – with ‘The Getaway’ they’ve worked with Danger Mouse to help them out of eight months of limbo in the wake of Flea breaking his arm in a snowboarding accident. “The only way that we saw this working,” says singer Anthony Keidis, “was to have trust in him and get rid of our old ideas and our old way of doing things and say, ‘If this is going to work, we just have to throw ourselves off the cliff and see what happens.’” Bungee funk, anyone?
They know how you feel
Lost a loved one? Half of ‘One Hot Minute’ was tributes to the likes of Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. Self-harming due to drug or alcohol problems? That was the other half. Whether in love, rehab, the depths of depression or the heights of coital ecstasy, RHCP have been there and documented it. They’re basically your entire life in quick-fire rhyming couplets, with its wang out. Go listen.
5 reasons to hate Red Hot Chili Peppers
They make bad songs that sound bad
Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst advert ever for musical cross-pollination. They offer rock that does not rock; funk that is not funky; hip-hop with no flow; psychedelia stripped of trippiness. It’s a perfect sh*t-storm of plodding riffs, flightless melodies and spiritual-as-a-dolphin-meme lyrics. It’s telling that, despite being one of the world’s most successful groups for more than quarter of a century, RHCP have proven amazingly uninfluential. Pretty much the only direct RHCP progeny ever were Hoobastank. Remember Hoobastank? ’Course you don’t. Not even Hoobastank remember Hoobastank, and they were Hoobastank.
They reek of groin
Thrusting groins; sweaty toplessness; “I put my middle finger in / Your monthly blood is what I win.” The Chili Peppers are like 14-year-old boys in a boob shop – leering, phwoaring, pungent with a clumsy, macho horniness that’s nauseating to behold. “Whatta gat ah gatta give it tuya muthaah!” bawls singer Anthony Kiedis, lunging his 50-something knackers at the audience like some cruel parody of a menopausal surf-jock. He’s engorged on Viagra, dizzy on Relentless, gate-crashing a sorority party. Ew. Dude. Put it away.
The never-ending noodling
Ever seen Red Hot Chili Peppers live? Holy sh*t. They make Muse look like masters of pithy brevity. You know that 32-year-old guy who works in your local music shop? Looks like he’s probably called Richard? The guy with the ponytail, Game Of Thrones T-shirt and a vast bunch of keys on his belt? The guy who’s forever demonstrating his fretboard wizardry to what he imagines are wowed customers – his eyes closed, lost in soulful concentration, blissfully unaware of all the awks cringe he’s generating? Well, imagine there’s four of him, and they’re onstage at Wembley, and they’ve been told to faff, noodle and tit about as if their lives depended on it. That is exactly what watching the Chili Peppers live is like.
They’re the sound of giving up
For all their rad tattoos, rehab tales and surf-bro dancing, the Chili Peppers are as middle-of-the-road and crushingly suburban as it gets. They’re the band you listen to when you can’t be arsed keeping up with music any more; when the joy of is covering the new, the mad and the challenging has long since faded and all you want is comforting aural soup with no unpredictable bits or emotional upheavals. You hum along to the Chili Peppers in coffee shops. They’re background muzak as your sat-nav guides you to Worksop. The world turns. Monday’s here again. You finger-tap along to ‘By The Way’. A sigh. A yawn. A shrug. The grave draws ever nearer.
Shut up about California already Jesus Christ
Every band is allowed to write one song about their hometown. To date, the Chili Peppers have written 3,236 songs about California. Knock it off, lads. Be reasonable.