November 27, 2007

Young, Dumb, and Full of Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik reminds me of U2’s Joshua Tree, not just in how these albums brought these already popular bands into the forefront of pop-cultural awareness, but also in how these albums let me down and proved to be the last albums that I would ever buy from either band.

Although I have found it nearly impossible to appreciate the post-superstardom work of either group, when I consider how enormously successful their careers have been since then, I realize that I probably should not hold it against either of them. Apparently, what really worked for them and most of their fans is precisely what doesn’t work for me.

So what went wrong?

For me and U2, it’s cut-and-dried: I don’t like the songs on The Joshua Tree; they don’t move or impress me, plus the production, despite the involvement of the genius Eno and the talented Lanois, makes everything sound washed out and dreary--just a few too many repeats and a touch too much reverb on the Edge throughout the album, I’m afraid. On the other hand, I share a more complicated relationship with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. There are some great songs on this album, and Rick Rubin’s production shines, really bringing out the best in every member of the band.

So what’s there not to like? Well, the major problem with Blood Sugar Sex Magik lies in the fact that it is just too damn long with too much filler. Pare it down to the essentials, and then you’d have one hell of an album:

Ditch the drab, mid-tempo “Funky Monks”. “Mellowship Slinky in B Major” is neither funky or punky enough to work for RHCP and just comes off as a lame attempt at hip hop, so we don’t need it on this “great” album. “The Righteous & The Wicked” is just Chili Peppers by numbers, and this band needs energy above all to be convincing, so this is a prime example of the chaff dragging this album down. Say “goodbye” to “The Greeting Song”, a weak riff on the same silliness that works so well on “Give it Away” but not here. Lose the pointless and terrible cover of “They’re Red Hot”, ‘cause when your cover can’t match the fun sexiness of an ancient, scratchy blues recording and “fun sexiness” is pretty much your whole game, you’ve obviously made a bad decision.

This leaves us with:

1. The Power of Equality. 2. If You Have to Ask. 3. Breaking the Girl. 4. Suck My Kiss 5. I Could Have Lied. 6. Give It Away. 7. Blood Sugar Sex Magic. 8. Under the Bridge. 9. Naked in the Rain. 10. Apache Rose Peacock. 11. My Lovely Man. 12. Sir Psycho Sexy.

That’s twelve strong songs culminating in the sickness of “Sir Psycho Sexy”! I never could wrap my head around Blood Sugar Sex Magik enough to really love it, but that looks like an album that would have blown my mind. Put the rest on an EP with “Soul to Squeeze”, and that would have sold millions, too.


Ancient Scientist said...

I sort of feel like filler can be excused on an album which advances a tight concept as long as it perpetuates the vibe. There are vibe songs. So I don't know if Blood Sugar Sex Magic can be dismissed based on its filler.

venerableseed said...

do you think its the invention of the CD has caused so much bloat? or just a product of the times.

So many of the top RS album are 35-45 minute things. But once the CD happened maybe people felt they weren't getting their money's worth.

Then again most movies once were 90-110 minutes and now everything seems to go over the two hour mark. Yawn.

LenBarker said...

Yes, Seed, I think that the increased length has a great deal to do with CDs. It's odd that the length of vinyl albums dictated album lengths for so long, mostly to great effect, when it really wasn't even necessary for much of that time.