Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 15: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik"

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Year: 1991
Label: Warner Bros.

In the early 1990's, music was beginning to once again expand in every direction. Genres were being crossed and fused together, creating new sounds and styles. Before Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins took over the planet, there was a short lived genre simply called "alternative rock." Eventually, this would become a catch-all grouping for anything that wasn't considered mainstream. However, in 1991, underground sensations, Red Hot Chili Peppers, smashed down the wall and forever changed the term "mainstream" with their legendary record, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Red Hot Chili Peppers began as a band known for fusing the fury of punk, the volume of metal, and the groove and soul of funk into their own unique sound. Having already achieved minor success with their cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," the group entered a mansion-turned-studio with mega-producer Rick Rubin. Rubin helped the group to concentrate and clean up their sound, letting the true genius of the music shine through. Scaling back the "metal" factor of the group and forming into a cleaner, more funk-based sound proved to be exactly what the group needed to fulfill their potential.

The music sounds a bit different than their previous efforts in large part due to the style of guitarist John Frusciante. He played less aggressively than his predecessor, deceased guitar prodigy Hillel Slovak. This stylistic change afforded the rest of the band space to create complex rhythms and textures around the guitar and, in general, freed up the band musically. It goes without saying that the Chili Peppers are driven primarily by the brilliant basswork of the man who only needs one name, Flea. Whether pushing deep into a slow groove or fingers flying at the speed of light, Flea has no limits on bass and it gives the band much of their distinctive sound.

Anthony Kiedis has established himself over time as one of the most introspective lyricists ever. Bearing his soul completely, he lets the listener into his deepest, most private thoughts, and the results are some of the most heartfelt songs ever recorded. One of the clearest examples of Kiedis' talent is the unlikely hit song, "Under The Bridge." The gorgeous melodies present a stark juxtaposition to the lyrical tale of Kiedis' own battle with heroin and cocaine addiction. The song nearly never happened as Kiedis felt the words were far "too soft" for the bands' musical style (the song peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts). The half singing/half rapping vocals that Kiedis delivers flow perfectly with the music and further add to the Chili Peppers inimitable sound.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers stand as one of the most successful bands in music today. Nearly two decades of making music in their own distinctive style has earned them a spot high atop the list of rock legends. Taking their influence of punk, funk, and metal, the band fuses them together to create amazingly catchy tunes with some of the finest lyrics around. While their last few albums have had far more pop appeal, the reality is, Blood Sugar Sex Magik may very well be the most important "alternative" album ever, and can certainly be seen as one of the records that, in fact, created the entire genre.

Standout tracks: "Breaking The Girl," "Funky Monks," and "Suck My Kiss."

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