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Red Hot Chili Peppers Are Back And Sizzling Red Hot

Red Hot Chili Peppers Are Back And Sizzling Red Hot

by Debbie Brautman | photos by Sean McCloskey

They are back in black and red hot… “Black Summer” that is. Their single, “Black Summer” is the most exciting summer song of 2022. It is from their new album Unlimited Love and it rocks and it grooves as yet another funk-rock classic to add to their enormous collection of hits. Anthony Kiedis’ distinctive vocals, Flea’s funky bass, and Chad Smith’s energetic drumming have combined with the return of their innovative and essential guitarist, John Frusciante, who seems to be a catalyst elevating the band to higher levels. They sorely wanted him back. On Howard Stern’s show, Kiedis said, “He’s our brother, our family, and being around him is infectious, contagious, and inspiring.” Frusciante left the band twice, the last time in 2007. This is the first time he is touring with them in fifteen years, as he has worked out his search to find himself, and also wanted back in. He came to the realization and told Kiedis and Flea, “I was born to be in this band.” He completes them and this twelfth album certainly shows it. The band is finally healthy and unified after years of turbulence and destructive drug use. Flea sums up where they’re at with an enthusiastic “We really care!” You certainly get your money’s worth with 73 minutes of 17 well-crafted original songs. It’s fresh and ultimately true to their school. Sounds distinctively Red Hot Chili Peppers, but with a certain sophistication, growth, and confidence. Frusciante’s guitar work is so impressive and he has magic fingers, earning him the nickname Trickfinger. This is a high-energy, fun album and their current Infinite Love 2022 tour is bringing it to the world. They can also be the band that you love to hate or hate to love. Kiedis’ bizarre cheesy lyrics and non-sensical raps might annoy some people, but they are not out to be Bob Dylan. They also manage to get their point across and for this album, the band stated, “We yearn to shine a light in the world, to uplift, to connect and bring people together.”

Formed in Los Angeles almost 40 years ago, in 1983, they came up with one of the best band names to go with their unique brand of California rock n’ funkiness. They are one of the better live bands in concert and are in astounding physical shape for 59-60-year-olds. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis, with his killer arms and washboard abs, could model for Muscle Mag magazine and is usually shirtless in constant dynamic movement on stage. Their famous bassist, Flea, is fitter than ever and Smith, their drummer, is equally super fit and extremely powerful. Frusciante is the youngest band member at 52 years old. The band kicked off their Global Stadium Tour in Seville, Spain, on June 4, 2022, and it was their first time playing Seville. They continued through Europe and afterward will be in the US for their “Black Summer” of Unlimited Love. The only problem with their current tour is that there are way too many great songs on their new album, and they can’t play them all and still fit in their treasured hits. Maybe years from now they will have a tour with this entire superb album but we will have to wait for that. It’s a gem.

Highlights are “Black Summer,” which starts with Frusciante’s magical guitar chords that send shivers down your spine. It escalates into an explosive chorus of “It’s been a long time since I’ve made a new friend. Waiting for another black summer to end” with more fabulous guitar and Kiedis’ passionate vocal deliverance. Enough cannot be said about this song. It rules. “Here Ever After” breaks into an infectious chorus of “she’s the kinda girl who make you want to go faster” with Chad Smith’s sharp and powerful drums and Flea’s driving bass. “These Are the Ways” is explained by Kiedis on the Howard Stern show, “John had a beautiful arrangement, like a classical orchestra. Felt like planet earth and the United States, in general, are in an upheaval, a redefinition of sorts and seeing what we have become.” The lyrics, “Have we all had enough, have we all had too much,” have a thought-provoking impact. Frusciante adds, “Initial inspiration for this song was from the Sparks album Propaganda, but it morphed into channeling The Who.” This complex song with killer guitar chords really rocks and is another hit single. On “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” it sounds like Kiedis is singing Aquatic Mountain but it is actually “Aquatic Mouth Dance.” It’s a funky and chunky bass jam with modern improvisational jazz overtones featuring trumpet, sax, and trombone. It’s as smooth as silk and it mentions Billy Zoom, Joe Doe, and Siouxsie Sioux, so that’s alright by me. On “Poster Child,” Kiedis can cram almost more lyrics in a song than Eminem, but he delivers it in a gentle and friendly rap style. Not really sure what he means most of the time, but it has a nice flow, interspersed with great musicianship by the exceptional band. References to the ’70s and ’80s abound with name drops of Led Zeppelin, Ramones, Devo, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, and Robert Plant. Lyric example: “Melle Mel and Richard Hell were dancing at the Taco Bell when someone heard a rebel yell, I think it was an infidel.”

The Great Apes” has the perplexing chorus of “All my love and half my kisses, superstar go do the dishes, I just want the apes to be free.” Just reading the lyrics does not do it justice. It sounds perfectly reasonable when sung by Kiedis. That is his gift and the killer rock-hard Who influences don’t hurt. Another hit racked up. “The Heavy Wing” is so interesting with inventive hard-hitting guitar riffs and beautiful vocals. It’s a complex song that you don’t get tired of and it is fabulous. “It’s Only Natural,” with its ethereal guitar, the reggae-tinged “Let ‘Em Cry,” the chill “White Braids & Pillow Chair,” and the multi-layered “Veronica,” float by with more melodic loveliness and are all quite catchy. “One Way Traffic” sounds like 3 songs in one, with manic musical road rage. “Tangelo” is such a beautiful closer on the album. It’s a soft ballad with the essence of Bryan Ferry’s (Roxy Music) vocal phrasings. It is a gorgeous melodic song. The weakest tracks are “She’s A Lover,” and “Whatchu Thinkin,’” but those are fan favorites, so there is something for everyone and the album works as a complete unit. It just does.

Although in past concerts Kiedis has occasionally veered into off-pitch singing, his vocals on this album sound perfect. In an interview with producer Rick Rubin, Flea expands on Kiedis’ singing, “He Fxxxxxx rocked it on this album. The best he’s ever done. He’s singing beautifully, even in rehearsals, with no studio magic. The longevity of the band has everything to do with his constant evolution as a singer.” This is a band that is evolving in a very positive way with zero stagnation for them after almost 40 years. Flea tells Rubin, “Love you, too, and so grateful that we worked together again on this (album.) The five of us together all bring something that is so different and what you bring is so crucial to us and has been for every record we’ve made together and really grateful for that.”

Some interesting band facts:

  • Flea’s real name is Michael Balzary
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012.
  • Founding guitarist Hillel Slovak overdosed in 1988
  • Dave Navarro, from Jane’s Addiction, was brought in on guitar for a short period and fired after arguments with Kiedis over lyrics.
  • Anthony Kiedis has a memoir called Scar Tissue
  • The band is known for huge charity shows to benefit a large variety of causes.
  • They have sold over 80 million albums.
  • They adopted the name Red Hot Chili Peppers, taken from the nickname for Louis Armstrong’s 1920 jazz quintet
  • It has been noted on “Black Summer” that Kiedis’ accent was sounding like an Irish pirate, but he was doing that as a tribute to Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon.
  • The eight-pronged asterisk Red Hot Chili Pepper symbol does not have any symbolic meaning at all
  • Anthony Kiedis lost his wild actor/drug dealer father, John Michael Kiedis, aka Blackie Dammett, on May 12, 2021.
  • John Frusciante’s musical influences range from Hendrix, Bowie, Frank Zappa, T. Rex, YES, King Crimson, The Germs to the Sex Pistols. As a teenager, he felt the Red Hot Chili Peppers did not have enough variety for him, although he became a giant fan.

Thanks to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for giving us what we need… Unlimited Love and a whole lot of exciting new music for another black summer. The return of both John Frusciante and Rick Rubin has created a perfect storm of creating Chili Pepper magic and bringing out the best in the band. It has been more than a black summer…more like a few black years. Strange days indeed. Do NOT miss hearing Unlimited Love and seeing the sizzling Red Hot Chili Peppers on their 2022 Global Stadium Tour, with openers The Strokes and Thundercat. It’s music that matters and music that heals. Let’s color our black world!

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