Album review

Red Hot Chili Peppers : By The Way
Warner Bros.

Red Hot Chili Peppers : By The WayThis one is going to ruffle a few feathers, but we aim to call it how we see it . . .
    Since '84's self-titled debut, the Chilis have managed to transform themselves from good-time party funksters into a mature and influential pop act. There, I've said it. There's very little about the Red Hot Chili Peppers that actually rocks in 2002. Don't get me wrong; they've still got the groove that's underpinned their work since the beginning, but they've moved a long way from Fight Like A Brave and Give It Away. Depending on where you're sitting, this isn't necessarily a bad thing . . .

The title track kicks things off, and despite its initially jarring high speed funkisms, it's a great tune. Equally at home on the radio or the dance floor, By The Way is a canny first single.
    Universally Speaking, This Is The Place and Dosed all drift by without making much of an impact. They all have the Chili Peppers typically twisted take on pop, but they're all very mundane tracks. In fact this musical drought lasts all the way 'til track seven, and the retro-funk of Can't Stop. John Frusciante's bouncy guitar work and Anthony Kiedis' rapped vocals conjuring memories of Chilis' triumphs of yesteryear. Not just a good tune, but a great tune. As is Midnight, with its huge uplifting chorus, "Everyone knows, anything goes. We are the lotus kids, better take note of this . . . for the story." A dozen tracks of this quality and By The Way would be album of the year material.
    While Midnight might be my personal high point, Tear is By The Way's true commercial killer. It may not be traditional Red Hot Chili Peppers material, but the combination of Kiedis' maudlin verses with a hugely lush chorus (and even a bit of trumpet) bizarrely bring The Beatles to mind. Perfect Top Of The Pops material.

So By The Way, Can't Stop, Midnight and Tear; four great tunes. Why the lukewarm mark? Quite simply because the rest of By The Way's 16 tracks aren't of the same calibre. I Could Die For You, Throw Away You Television, Minor Thing . . . all good. As is the whole disc. Good, but unfortunately not quite great.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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