Red Hot Chili Peppers have had an extraordinary career which is full of highs and lows and an oft-changing cast of great contributors. Through their journey they have cemented their status as one of the world’s most original and brilliant bands. However, not all of their albums have stood the test of time.
Thankfully, that is not the case with a significant portion of their material, includingBlood Sugar Sex Magik, a legendary album recorded by Red Hot Chili Peppers with the brilliant producer Rick Rubin around 25 years ago from the time of writing this.
The collection is ignited by ‘The Power of Equality’, which possesses a musical energy recalling early Public Enemy and an equally aggressive sociopolitical message that the latter group would probably be proud of. Then, however, things slow down with ‘If You Have to Ask’, which manages to still be just as funky, if not more-so, than the previous song while being a lot more mellow for the most-part – that is, until a groove-driven interlude bursts in with one of many great John Frusciante guitar solos on the record.
Thirdly, we have the interesting ‘Breaking the Girl’ with its poignant lyrics, crashing drums and a somewhat experimental percussive bridge. The first three songs here set the tone for one of the records of the 1990s and showcase a great deal of elements that underpin its appeal – including relatively complex, somewhat progressive musicianship, especially from bassist Flea and the aforementioned guitarist. That said, even the songs that make up this opening triptych are not the best on this album, except for, perhaps, the opening four-minute-long slab of excellence.
Fans of the instrumentalists from Rage Against the Machine might enjoy the hard funk of ‘Suck My Kiss’, and a melancholy prettiness flows through the guitar part on ‘I Could Have Lied’. Outbursts of flair from Chad Smith embellish the great grooves of ‘Mellowship Slinky…’ and ‘Give It Away’. Even the weakest two tracks in this collection exceeding one minute, ‘Funky Monks’ and ‘The Righteous & The Wicked’, pack something of a punch and moments of promise, in part because of more potent drumming from Smith.
After the title track, which is underrated even in its relative simplicity, comes the breath-taking and sublime ‘Under the Bridge’: one of vocalist Anthony Kiedis’ best contributions ever. Flea’s outstanding take on the ‘slap bass’ style is prominently displayed on ‘Naked in the Rain’ which ends with another great-sounding solo from Frusciante.
Following the funky ‘Apache Rose Peacock’ are the rather fast-paced ‘Greeting Song’ and a love song for previous Chili Peppers guitarist, Hillel Slovak, which is named ‘My Lovely Man’ and adorned with more excellent guitar-playing by Slovak’s successor.
While one-minute-long song ‘They’re Red Hot’ is the actual album closer, one would say that its nearest antecedent, ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’, deserves to be the real finisher, as the monstrous grooves of its beginning are replaced at its conclusion with a jam of sorts that brings together what are arguably the finest fruits of the album – the funk and the chilled melancholia – into one glorious mixture.
No tracks among the seventeen displayed here are really poor. Even the arguable throwaway ‘They’re Red Hot’ has some merit. Yes, some of the album’s grooves may run on for too long, decent though they all are, and the lyrics could be better overall. Meanwhile, the drumming, although great, is not exactly in the same class as the other instrumentalist’s contributions here.
But, all in the all, the album is, like many of its songs, a stellar classic, and it spans many feelings and colours, and that is, in short, why it has stood the test of time.
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