Red Hot Chilli Peppers Back at it

by Justin Smulison
(The Towerlight)

Red Hot Chili Peppers

By The Way

Warner Bros.

Fans of the pre-“Californication” Chili Peppers sound may have mixed feelings about “By The Way.” They’ll be dismayed because the in-your-face funkiness they love is largely missing. However, the album will undoubtedly remain in their stereos for months.

Here, the Peppers’ maturity is even more lucid: the topic of sex has been replaced with love, politics with introspection, and the past with the future.

John Frusciante’s dominant, Hendrix-inspired guitar work and vocal harmonizing provides a yin-yang effect. While both bring beautiful melodies, his presence overshadows bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith. The popular rhythm section doesn’t sound too challenged, as a majority of the 16 tracks are slower and calmer than previous works. “Can’t Stop” hints at the band’s archetypal sound, but is merely good. It begs for more of Flea’s signature slap-bass technique and a faster tempo.

There’s a reason that the Peppers have sited in recent interviews; that they are getting older (three of them are almost 40), and that while they could play the fastest, funkiest, chaotic tunes today, they don’t feel like it. To them, that’s not what makes a good song anymore (which explains why they don’t play anything off “Mother’s Milk” live).

But what the band forgets is that that’s what many fans love about their music. It does create a backlash (and this is coming from their biggest fan whose hardest task to is remain impartial for this review), since a song like “Don’t Forget Me,” is easy to discard. It just sounds forced and unnecessary.

However, an instant classic like “Tear,” the beautiful vocal harmonies in the tradition of the Beach Boys will put a warm smile on your face. The fun Latin-stylings of “Cabron” will have fans singing along with its exotic chorus.

Anthony Kiedis’ crowning lyrical and vocal achievements can be found on the touching ballad, “I Could Die For You,” while the band demonstrates small doses of spastic energy on their best song, “Minor Thing.”

While “By The Way” is more suitable for the beach rather than the mosh pit, it’s undeniable that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have made an affecting album that can and will grow on you.