Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 16: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Suck My Kiss"

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Song: "Suck My Kiss"
Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Year: 1991

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In a handful of cases, the face and sound of a band has changed so much that it can often be difficult to remember exactly why the band in question was once seen in such a different light.  This may be due to changes in lineup, a particular producer, or a life-altering even in the bands’ primary writers.  Then of course, there is the ever present “exploring new musical directions” line that has served as the excuse for band groups who have clearly lost sight of what once made them so great.  With this in mind, though they now write little more than pop songs, there was a time when Red Hot Chili Peppers were one of the most potent and progressive bands on the planet.  Bringing a blend of funk and punk along with some of the most talented musicians of their day, the group wore their emotions on their sleeves, and their songs remain some of the most prolific and moving of their generation.  Having already sent ripples through the water of the music scene with their first few albums, the would could never have expected the musical tidal wave that would arrive with their groundbreaking 1991 album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  Creating far more concise musical arrangements and some of the finest signing in the bands history, the album completely separated Red Hot Chili Peppers from the rest of the so-called “alternative” music scene.  Though one can make a case for many songs on the record being their finest, one can find the unrestrained punk-funk brilliance that defines Red Hot Chili Peppers in the form of their 1991 single, “Suck My Kiss.”

The instant the song begins, the entire band drops in with a stunning presence, and they instantly set the tone not only for the song, but for a majority of the album as well.  Led by the stomping groove of Flea’s bass, it is performances like this that have vaulted him into the highest and most respected places in the history of bass players.  His down-beat, emphasized by the drums from Chad Smith, and in many ways, Smith’s playing seems far more natural and authentic than his first album with the group.  These two remain today one of the most powerful rhythm sections of their generation, and the groove they create falls somewhere between punk, metal, funk, and hip hop.  The fact that the group seems to cross into hip-hop territory is where the song begins to become indefinable, as the verse sections feature little more than these two players, giving a sparse, but extremely potent groove.  The bands’ newest member, John Frusciante, makes a seamless transition into the group, and his high-strung fills serve as a fantastic counter to the vocals.  His brief solo near the end of the song shows just how perfectly he fits into the bands sound, as his dizzying solo pushes the overall energy to a level rarely achieved by any band in history.  Nearly two decades after “Suck My Kiss” first hit airwaves, the sound and mood can still light up a room, and the fact that it retains its power even after such a period of time is a testament to what a uniquely amazing musical moment it represents.

Though the bass playing of Flea defines the groups’ sound, the band simply would not be complete without the unmistakable vocals of Anthony Kiedis.  In both the pitch of his voice as well as his cadence, there has never been another vocalist with a similar approach, and it is this style which so perfectly blends with the almost stuttering sound of Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Having already proven that he can work the entire vocal scale, Kiedis stays close to the sound of his spoken voice, but he brings a punch to the lyrics that again give a nod to hip-hop style.  The pulse with which he performs adds yet another rhythm to the song, and these multiple beats is one of the key aspects that makes the song so fantastic.  However, one cannot discuss “Suck My Kiss” without looking to the lyrics, and the words perfectly display the slightly adolescent, yet fun loving style that many came to love about Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Certainly one of the most unsubtle word plays ever recorded, one can almost understand why the single was given the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker when it was released.  Though he never slips on the words, one cannot help but grin when Kiedis delivers the lines, “…give to me sweet sacred bliss, your mouth was made to suck my kiss…”  Regardless of the intent of the song, it is the high energy, almost ecstatic manner with which Anthony Kiedis delivers the words that make the song so fantastic.

Though the band had a few songs that charted higher, there is no song that better defines the sound of Red Hot Chili Peppers than “Suck My Kiss.”  Clearly displaying their influences of funk and punk, the sound and energy of the sound can be linked to an odd combination of The J.B.’s and The Stooges.  In fact, the b-side of the “Suck My Kiss” single features the bands’ take on The Stooges classic, “Search And Destroy.”  The fact that the group was so completely unique was one of the reasons that so many bands attempted to follow in their path, yet none have been able to compare to the talent and sheer energy found in the music of Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It is almost impossible to think of a time when Blood Sugar Sex Magik did not exist, as many of the songs have become truly anthemic over the years, and the record instantly placed the band into the most elite group of musicians in history. The core interplay between Flea and Kiedis has rarely been as powerful as it is here, and the addition of John Frusciante stands as one of the most perfect band-member-transitions in history.  Though his time with the band would be short-lived, his work on the album, especially his splintering sound on "Suck My Kiss" are nothing short of phenomenal.  Though they have seemed to move further and further from their funk-punk roots as the years have passed, one can be quickly reminded of just why Red Hot Chili Peppers remain so highly respected by listening to their unmatched 1991 single, "Suck My Kiss."

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