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Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mothers Milk [Album Review]

March 14, 2012

Good Time Boys / Higher Ground / Subway to Venus / Magic Johnson / Nobody Weird Like Me / Knock Me Down / Taste the Pain / Stone Cold Bush / Fire / Pretty Little Ditty / Punk Rock Classic / Sexy Mexican Maid / Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky

Disaster struck in 1988, when Hillel Slovak overdosed and even though it was a shame (the guy was a wonderfully versatile guitar player ) it also this event to make the chili boys rethink (or so it seems) their act. Superficially, nothing much has changed, as the opening track “Good Time Boys” already suggests, but they’ve undeniably matured some, learned how to write and sequence songs and kept their silliness in check, for the most part. Of course, there’s also the entrance of Chad Smith, who replaced Jack Irons after Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro had done so for a while, also John Frusciante Slovak’s greatest fan and at the time a prodigy of barely 18 years old. Even though the album’s peculiar production and songs aren’t the best thing that could’ve happened to the band, Frusciante shines throughout the album with some ridiculously tight playing and an immensely eccentric cocktail of funky licks, hard rock riffs, lightning-fast tricks and other assorted stuff in which he has now become famed for. The first time around, the Peppers sound like a band who should be taken seriously, instead of a bunch of 24/7 party-goers who happen to be good musicians. That said, a large part of the album is still as messy and directionless as the previous albums shamefully. There’s simply way too much instances in which they all wanna show off their considerable skills but don’t know how to dose them or keep them in sync, this often makes me turn this (and the previous) album off after only a few songs. Most of the time, it’s just to too much too take, and the nearly bottomless sound doesn’t help any.

But hey, when digested in small doses, the album’s perfectly enjoyable. The energetic and pounding “Good Time Boys” not only shows they’re capable of irony (“Our devotion to emotion is more than evident”) and having good taste but also that they’ve finally found a way to channel their energy in a swaggering party anthem teats a joy to hear. Even better is their take on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” which was one of the first of their songs I ever heard. It’s not that it beats the original, but I like they way in which they turn it into a real Peppers song that rocks hard, without feeling the need to overdo things. There are three more songs that I really like on this album on first impressions: the first, “Knock Me Down,” already hints at the more melodic, pop-oriented stuff they’d come up with in the nineties, combining well-sung verses with a tighter, muscular chorus. It’s also one of their most restrained songs yet (up there with “If You Want Me to Stay”), which is quite fitting, as it reads like a letter to Slovak. It also contains the lines “If you see me getting high, knock me down, I’m not bigger than life,” making it one of their humblest, wistful songs. Another favorite of mine (most other people seem to dismiss it) is the speedy funk-rocker “’Stone Cold Bush.” OK, its lyrics are pretty silly (these guys just don’t get away with tales about murder – at least, that’s what I guess it’s about), but at least it has got a great groove going, while Frusciante’s ultra-tight playing and wah wah-effects are a blast (i compare him to the greats of Hendrix/Clapton of his time of course). The same also goes for their messy but energetic cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” a track that was actually recorded with Slovak and Irons the year before. And that’s about it. The remaining songs often have some amazing interplay ‘Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky,” “Subway to Venus”), some nice grooves (“Sexy Mexican Maid”), Flea playing trumpet (“Taste the Pain”) or a whole lotta speedy nonsense that for once isn’t annoying suprsingly (“Magic Johnson,” “Punk Rock Classic” – which has some funny lyrics about “the biz”), but too much of it passes by without making a real impact. After having heard it, you’ll vividly remember a few songs, but will have trouble remembering any of the rest. But that’s still better than having to go through The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, of course.

Note: It also contains the “Pretty Little Ditty,” mostly famous because its main lick was sampled by those fake-ass white boys Crazy Town. Exactly the kind of band I’ll never spend my time and/or energy on.

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