…a two-decade career trafficking in progressively diluted funk songs about California, sex, and having sex in California…
– Notoriously elitist website Pitchfork, reviewing admittedly awful 2006 album, Stadium Arcadium
The band getting slain apart so savagely: funk-punk-rock stalwarts and middle-aged shirtless SoCal Gods, Red Hot Chili Peppers. For what its worth, I’ve never taken Pitchfork too seriously, and even that is overstating things a tad. They’re infamous for latching themselves to the latest indie band that you haven’t heard of yet, heaping them with excessive praise until you like the band, at which point they distance themselves as quick as you can say Animal Collective and move onto to the next undiscovered collection of hipsters. Rinse and repeat.
Unfortunately though, it would appear that the general consensus among the music loving public very much aligns with Pitchfork’s stance on the band as well. The Chili Peppers were always going to divide audiences, and have since they formed in 1983. They were loud, aggressive, in your face and overtly sexual. They were the antithesis to the hair bands that were invading Los Angeles at the time.
Consider their first single from their self-titled debut album:
A great song? Well, yes, although this version doesn’t do the song (or any from this album) the justice it deserves.
Andy Gill’s production, along with the fact that original members Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons had left the band prior to the making of the album, left them with a hot mess and watered-down version of what the band does best: bring the energy.
This was never more on show than live and in person. Exhibit A:
Some of their best songs never made their albums. For example:
Body of Water is a fantastic rocking number that is better than at least half of the songs on 2002’s By The Way.
And who could forget:
This one didn’t make the cut on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which is defensible due to it being a record filled to the brim with greatness. I personally would’ve maybe bumped Naked in the Rain or The Greeting Song in favour of Soul to Squeeze, but as I wasn’t a band member then or now my opinion wasn’t taken on board.
And if you want to bear witness to some of the greatest and most unheralded guitar ever laid down, check this clip out, which strips away every element of music save for Frusciante’s masterful fretwork. He can play:
This is the stuff that inspired me to learn the guitar and play it badly.
To me, it doesn’t matter that their singer is now a middle-aged hipster.
He’s more than earned the right, in my opinion.