Tag Archives: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Song of the Day: “Around the World” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

This song always reminds me of my senior year of high school. I had a radio clock that I used as my alarm. At 6:45 A.M. when the alarm went off, “Around the World” almost always seemed to be the song that came blasting out of the tiny speaker to wake me up. The loud, distorted bass from Flea that opens the song is quite unnerving when you’re half-asleep let me tell you.

Though quite popular upon its release, “Around the World” seems to be one of the forgotten singles from Californication. You mostly hear “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and the title track on ‘90s oriented stations. It’s a shame, because “Around the World” is probably one of their better singles from that period. It’s certainly better than “Otherside” and I get kind of tired of hearing “Scar Tissue”.

“Around the World” is also a perfect showcase for John Frusciante’s preference for restraint. He could have ended the song with a wild solo, but instead chose a repeated circular rhythm. Bonus points to Anthony Kiedis using non-sense lyrics as a melody line in the third chorus.

Song of the Day: “Minor Thing” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

I read somewhere recently that John Frusciante is giving up making music for public consumption. The dude is a bit hard to follow musically and personally in part because he’s so goddamn mercurial and a good chunk of his solo stuff is on par with Metal Machine Music. Prior to this, the last I heard was he was making electronic music.

It’s a shame because, he was without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Ironically, the very thing that makes him frustrating as a solo artist is the same thing that elevated the Red Hot Chili Peppers from becoming a running joke.

I’ve always thought that 2002’s By the Way never really got its fair share of accolades, because it’s not a traditional RHCP record. Only two of the songs contain their trademark funk-rock, while the rest is sprinkled with elements of psychedelic surf-pop.  This can change of sound can be directly attributed to Frusciante and it led to some clashes between him and Flea.

One of the highlights for me is the surf-rock gem, “Minor Thing” that appears near the end of the album. Its layered sound and uptempo (but not aggressive) sound perfectly captures the feeling of a late summer evening on the beach. It’s almost impossible not to feel the warm orange sun descending into the horizon over the ocean as Frusciante’s pretty, yet sparse chords play during the verses. His short solo during the bridge is one last look off into the sky as the last rays of the sun hit the sky. But it’s the concluding riff that truly makes the song special. For the last minute, the entire band locks together letting Frusciante repeat the same riff over and over again as day finally turns into evening.

Why the 2012 Rock Hall Class is Deserving But Least Interesting

For the past 10 years I used to get excited when artists I love would get nominated.  Over the past 10 years we’ve seen The Stooges, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, R.E.M., Blondie, U2, Elvis Costello and The Clash (just to name a few) all make their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For me, we’re getting to the point where the list of really interesting people inducted into the rock and hall of fame is starting to wane. There are always a few people who should have inducted long before they actually were, such as included Darlene Love, Tom Waits, and Leon Russell from last year’s class; and this year there’s Laura Nyro.  But if we’re going to stick to the 25 years since the first official release, the list is going to start to get boring really quick.  This isn’t to say that the Beastie Boys, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Faces/Small Faces, Donovan and Guns N’ Roses aren’t worthy of being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but with the exception of the Chili Peppers I never really listened to any of these artists extensively – I just started to check out The Faces so forgive me for that one. I think in order to understand the artists for this class, you had to have lived through it.  I say this because I can understand their importance in the overall arc of rock and roll.  The Beastie Boys deserve their spot in the history of rock and hip-hop. White guys could never make it as rappers before them, and their use of sampling on Paul’s Boutique was major influence on hip-hop in general. But the songs from Ill Communication sound dated – “Fight for Your Right” and even misogynistic “Paul Revere”.  Even the songs that I do like from their 90s output are so tied to the decade that it makes it harder to appreciate on a broader level. Perhaps I was to young to appreciate Guns N’ Roses and the reaction that Appetite for Destruction had. I have since heard that album many times in subsequent years (never by my own choice) and almost every single song seems stuck in 1987; the exception being “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.  And even the most ardent supporters of Guns N’ Roses admit that Appetite is their best album. It remains to be seen whether Axl will re-unite with his original band or use the “hired guns” he’s currently using as Guns N’ Roses. As far as Donovan goes, my own frame of reference for him is from Bob Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and “Mellow Yellow”.  It’s a bit shallow, I know. As most of my favorite artists are either in the Hall of Fame already (or have only released debut albums in the last 10 years) the next few years of inductees might be kind of boring.

Will The Red Hot Chili Peppers Return to Former Glory?

I recently heard the new Red Hot Chili Peppers single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and while the song plays to the Chili Pepper’s strengths, overall it was a bit underwhelming. Flea is in full flight with a memorable bass line and new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer offers some tasteful yet intricate guitar lines. Yet, the end result seems more like a Californication-era B-side than a full fledged come-back single. It’s not bad per se, but as a Chili Peppers song it seems lifeless.

I’m not surprised that the song barely stays afloat. Former guitarist John Frusciante who formally announced his departure in 2009 (it’s been reported that he actually left a year earlier) was the creative force behind the band’s most celebrated and loved and albums. Frusciante is a musician’s guitar-hero. He can shred when he wants to – half of Stadium Arcadium is a showcase for him to let loose – but most of the time he is focused on sonic textures and bringing the song to life. His playing on “Scar Tissue” was intricate without being overbearing and bloated. You can hear traces of Jimi Hendrix in his playing just as much as Lou Reed and Johnny Marr.

On Blood Sugar Sex Magik he mixed funky riffs with metallic force on “Give it Away” and “Suck My Kiss”.  His “Little Wing” style playing on “Under the Bridge” perfectly matched Anthony Kiedis’ tale of overcoming drug addiction.  For Californication his solos were more stylized and controlled while the songs were a perfect hybrid of melodic pop and funk. 2002’s By The Way found Frusciante taking over the controls (to Flea’s chagrin) resulting in one of the best straight-up records of the 2000s. Stadium Arcadium was a mix of every style that Chili Peppers have ever played, but with the exception of a few songs like most double albums, it was too much.

Frusciante’s incarnation of the band reminds of The Who. Both were bands that received a fair amount of critical praise while also being extremely popular with the masses. Both bands had also had an extremely talented group of musicians with a rare chemistry to tackle many different styles.

It was this combination of melodies mixed with a funky energy that made The Chili Peppers one of the most enduring bands of the last few decades. As their peers disappeared from radio or broke up, The Chili Peppers have always managed to have radio hits even as the rock scene was changing around them. As rap-rock exploded in the late 90s, Californication was one of the biggest selling records of 1999-2000.  As “post-post grunge” (as I like to refer to it) came into popularity around 2002-2003 as bands like Nickelback, Creed, and Breaking Benjamin took over radio The Chili Peppers still found fans. Frat-boys could jam and lift weights to songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Around the World” as music-snobs embraced the bands’s ability to try something new like the Beach Boy-esque “Tear” from By the Way.

Despite my criticism of “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, I still hope their upcoming I’m With You album is a success both critically and commercially. Anthony Kiedies and Flea have endured so many different line-ups of the band they started, that it’s hard not to root for them as they enter the era of Chili Peppers 3.0. “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” might be a luke-warm Chili Peppers song, but it’s probably still better than most songs on “active rock” radio.

Songs of Summers Past (Part 1)

(Me, summer 2004.  Back when I had short hair.  It’s very strange looking at that now.)

For whatever reason, the advent of summer has bought back a lot memories.  And most of these memories somehow revolve a specific song, and are tied to a specific moment in time, which will be forever etched in my mind.  Every time I listen to The New Pornographers’ “Use It”, I’m immediately transported back to the summer of 2007.  The Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” takes me back to my teenage self when I used to listen to that dubbed cassette version of Sand in the Vaseline on my Walkman during road trips with my parents.  And some of these songs, well, I probably wouldn’t write about them otherwise.   (And for those I mention here, you know who are, though for the public domain, you shall remain nameless.)

Offspring – “Come out and Play” (Summer 1994)

The summer of 1994 was the first summer I really remember.  Not surprisingly it’s also the first summer where I could identify songs which were popular and the older kids were listening to.  That summer I was on a Swim Team with two my childhood friends (who are also still my best-friends). Even at this early age, getting up at 8 o’clock during the summer was not something I wanted to do.  As we swam laps, the lifeguards would blast music on their stereo.  I’m sure there were other songs, but the only two songs I seem to remember playing were Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” and Pearl Jam’s “Daughter”.  I really hated “Daughter” – it would be years before I actually liked the song and Pearl Jam themselves.  Even then I could sense that Eddie Vedder meant everything that he said.  “Come Out and Play” though, as much as I tried to pretend I hated it, I secretly liked its chunky rhythms and aggressiveness.  And even if you disliked the song it was hard to get away from, “you gotta keep’em separated!”.   Being 12, I was impressionable and if the 16 year old lifeguards thought it was cool, obviously it must be cool.  They knew every single word.

Years later, when I first discovered the Itunes Store in the summer of 2004 – “Come Out and Play” was one of the first songs I bought.  I’m not ashamed to admit.

Beck – “Where’s It’s At” (1996)

“Where It’s At” still remains a great song, however it remains stuck in 1996 – a song where time doesn’t apply.  It hasn’t aged, but it doesn’t seem to fit into a broader context.  Part of it probably has to do with its mesh of sounds and hook – “I got two turn tables and a microphone!” – which was inescapable in the summer of 1996.  My older brother who was 21 at the time, suggested that Beck’s Odelay was the Highway 61 Revisited of his generation.  Quite a bit of hyperbole on his part, I think.  This was the first summer when I was allowed to actually hang out with him, and we used to blast this song constantly. Its odd keyboards, bleeps, robotic voices, and stream of consciousness lyrics were unlike I ever heard.  I had previously been under the impression that songs had to have a certain sound and structure to be good – and “Where It’s At” demolished my previous ideas of what a song could actually sound like.  Oddly enough, the very things that make me critical of it now, were very appealing to my teenage self in 1996.  The windows of the car were down, the music was very loud.  Those who stared at us at we drove around, just didn’t seem to get it (whatever I thought it was at the time).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Scar Tissue” (Summer of 1999)

“Scar Tissue” is a song that captures the sound of a hot summer evening.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a lot of good song, but this is the one that comes close to perfection.  Its melody is infectious, and John Frusciante’s guitar breaks are tasteful and full of beauty.  This song was everywhere in the summer of 1999 – the year that I was about to enter my senior year of high school.  The summer before I had gotten my driver’s license, but it was this summer that I was really able to drive around by myself and get out of the house, even if it was just driving to Borders. To me, the song represented wide open spaces and possibilities.  By being able to drive, I had achieved a sense of freedom that was previously unavailable.  “Scar Tissue” was a radio staple that summer, and I’ve never gotten tired of it.

U2 – “Bad”

2001 was the summer of U2.  The previous fall they had released the fantastic All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which reaffirmed their status after the abysmal Pop a few years earlier.  When they toured the US that summer, it would be the first time I would see them after years of trying. As a live band, U2 have few rivals and “Bad” has always been the centerpiece of their show whenever they play it.  It’s also one of the few U2 songs that is different every single time they play it.   Sometimes it could be 12 or 13 minutes long with several extended endings or 7 minutes long.  Bono would often sing lines from other songs such as “Sympathy for the Devil”, “People Have the Power”, “Norwegian Wood” and U2’s own “40” before the band kicked it back into high gear.   I’ve read that the song is about heroin addiction, but it’s also much more than that – it’s about letting go and not taking life for granted.   When Bono shouts “not fade away!” as the band kicks in and The Edge repeats his delayed chords, it really is transcendent, to use a cliche term.  I spent the summer of 2001, downloading as many U2 bootlegs from that tour, simply trying to find as many variations of “Bad” as I could.  And each version is magical in its own way.

 

More to come.

 

 

 

Bad Bob Dylan Covers

Bob Dylan is the go-to man for cover songs.  Especially if an artist wants to achieve some credibility.  Most of the Bob Dylan covers are decent, but nothing spectacular.  There are exceptions – Van Morrison’s version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” gives depth and darkness that Dylan’s original only hinted at.  Jimi Hendrix’s amped up “All Along the Watchtower” set the standard for covers of any artist. Geogre Harrison adds beauty to  “If Not For You”.  Then are Bob Dylan covers that are not only embarrassing, but simply just an insult.

Here are some of the worst that I’ve come across:

Sheryl Crow – Mississippi. One of Dylan’s masterpieces (of which he has four different released versions – all of them great) Crow turns in a slick country-pop version.  The Dixie Chicks also did a cover of this song, and their version is only slightly better.

Guns N’ Roses – Knocking on Heaven’s Door. A song about death is turned into a party anthem along Axl’s over-emphasis on the word door (“dwoooo-awww-wwoooor”).

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Subterranean Homesick Blues. While you could argue  “Subterranean Homesick Blues” had an impact on what would become rap, the Chili Pepper’s version of this song is misguided and utterly forgettable.

The Grateful Dead – Ballad of a Thin Man. The Dead take one of Dylan’s nastiest lyrics and turn into a snooze-fest.  That makes the chorus – “you know something is happening but you don’t know what it is” – somewhat ironic, and was probably lost on most of the audience.

U2- All Along the Watchtower. U2’s version found on Rattle & Hum, is bad for several reasons.  Usually I’m all for Bono ad-libbing on stage, but his announcement of “All I got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in the middle of the song is not one of his finer moments. While Bono tagged “rock and roll stops the traffic” on a fountain during “Pride” in the movie Rattle & Hum is shown during “All Along the Watchtower” adding even mores woes to an already failed attempt at the song.

Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers – Highway 61 Revisited.  Dylan’s version is a warped, nightmare of a song disguised with absurd lyrics.  Karen O just seems to think it’s silly.

My Chemical Romance – Desolation Row. Another of Dylan’s masterpieces, My Chemical cut out 9 minutes of the song and scream through some of Dylan’s best lyrics.  Up there with Crow for having the worst Dylan cover.