Review by Jack Foley
HAVING astounded the critics with their 1999 release, Californication,
the Red Hot Chili Peppers set themselves a tough act to follow with By
The Way, the follow-up. But fans fearing another repeat of the disappointments
which followed Blood, Sex, Sugar, Magik were relieved to find that
By The Way was worth the wait.
As a collection of 16 rock songs that epitomise the sound of a band at the peak of their form, By The Way has few equals this year - it is, in short, one of the best albums of the past 12 months, with barely a bad tune on it.
Anthony Kiedis and co have produced an eighth album which is brimming with brilliance; one which is easy to listen to and which captures the essence of the Chili Peppers sound, while also tossing in something new.
Opening with the single By The Way, which harks back to the early, pumped-up aggression of Give It Away during its verses, the album then takes a sun-drenched trip through some typically Californian harmonies, taking in everything from drug taking, kite-flying, fortune telling to biting girls' legs. It is, in short, a musical joyride.
Lyrically, the band has also matured, having emerged from the drug-fuelled excesses of their early days and the rifts which followed, and there is a contentment to be found in lines such as 'show love with no remorse, climb on to your seahorse', during the sublime Dosed, a lament about how love should be, as opposed to how it is.
Likewise, the musical composition is more diverse, even though Flea's distinctive bass remains as impressive as ever, along with Frusciante's gripping guitar. The album also takes in a more orchestral sound, incorporating some surprising strings, horns and elements of electronics.
The second single, The Zephyr Song, is probably a better indication of the sound to expect from the long-player - a breezy, wish-fulfilment fantasy about flying away on a zephyr that really conjures happy images; all backed by Kiedis' terrific vocals. It also provides a good showcase for the guitar sound that has become one of the band's strengths.
Can't Stop, the third single, is a more pumped-up track, featuring some great drums, which harks back to earlier sounds, while also taking in the best of the new. The backing vocals work really well, while the chorus is as catchy and singalong as we have come to expect, virtually guaranteeing another big hit. Expect it to feature in plenty of surf shops this summer.
Elsewhere, there is also evidence of the band trying to experiment. The organ-led ballad, I Could Die For You, is far more relaxed than much of their previous work, while the Latin-inspired Cabron is a jovial treat, featuring some blistering acoustic guitar work.
Midnight is another terrific track, opening with the sound of a wailing police siren in the background, and virtually capturing the essence of America, while the sweeping Tear is simply towering, as is the final track, Venice Queen - a great way to end a brilliant album.
1. By The Way
2. Universally Speaking
3. This Is The Place
5. Don't Forget Me
6. The Zephyr Song
7. Can't Stop
8. I Could Die For You
10. Throw Away Your Television
13. On Mercury
14. Minor Thing
15. Warm Tape
16. Venice Queen