Red Hot Chili Peppers : By The Way

Not wasted. Not stupid. And remarkably, not uncool, either...

If the Red Hot Chili Peppers

have come to realise anything over a career of

nearly 20 years, then it’s that enough shallowness eventually starts to

make you pretty deep. Over that time there have been drugs, there have been

girls, and there have almost certainly been parties – now we find the group

in the unenviable position of surveying the aftermath, and trying to clear

up the mess.

Or we would, were this 1999, and this a review of the band’s

‘Californication’ album – confessional, occasionally heartbroken, and

containing a song about going surfing with your friends. The thing is, so

monstrously successful was this often downbeat record, it feels that with

‘By The Way’ the group have got the confidence to do exactly what they want

again. Their hearts are on their sleeves, for sure, but their hearts seem to

be in their work as well.

And ‘By The Way’ is, by and large, very good. By god is it ever long (it’s

16 tracks), but on the whole it showcases enough of what makes the
Chili Peppers

a very good rock group – chief among these are John

Frusciante’s excellent, inventive guitar playing, and the fact that it is

with tremendous conviction that Anthony Kiedis belts out even the most

ridiculous words.

Stylistically all over the shop (there’s a Spanish-sounding thing called

‘Cabron’, ‘Tear’ sounds like Paul McCartney, while ‘On Mercury’ is

dangerously close to ska-punk), there is a confused but occasionally

inspirational band at work here. Certainly, there are bellowing rock ballads

that you have heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers

do a thousand times before, albeit with

different names, but there are equally a clutch of songs that brilliantly

capture their regretful, reformed, but still ultimately playful essence.

‘By The Way’ (the single), sets the tone. In it, we find Anthony Kiedis

waiting, rather unbelievably, [I]”in line to see the show” (surely “in line

for an early dinner reservation at Spago”
), but compensates for this

immediately with a completely unpredictable torrent of noise. ‘Can’t Stop’

sees them revisiting their funk rock blueprint, then, best of the lot,

there’s ‘This Is The Place’. Basically ‘Under The Bridge Pt 2’, a heroin

confessional with a fantastic chorus, and the moment where you could most

realistically believe that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are actually a rock

band of the quality of[a][/a].

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

today define themselves by what they were once,

and how they’re not like that anymore. Not wasted. Not stupid. And

remarkably, not uncool, either.

John Robinson