photo & text by nacrowe
growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS feel like a cultural institution at this point. coming out of the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s and being primed on all the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK of that era, while also integrating other influences (most predominantly the ethos and sonic complexity of classic FUNK records) this band, along with others like FAITH NO MORE, JANE'S ADDICTION and FISHBONE, in my eyes exemplifies that tipping point when ALTERNATIVE ROCK began to boil over culturally and laid the groundwork for NIRVANA to later charge the gates. given how commercially viable the band has been for decades, its difficult to discern how revolutionary their sound actually was back when their fifth release, BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (WARNER BROS, 1991) came out at the beginning of the 90s.
its easy to point out the sheer musical dexterity and chemistry of their rhythm section in FLEA, CHAD SMITH and JOHN FRUSCIANTE. it is arguably one of the great assembles of musicians in the history of rock music, probably right there with LED ZEPPELIN. the immense aural pleasure of this listening to this record is how tight and connected they are as a unit. songs like "SUCK MY KISS," "THE POWER OF EQUALITY," "NAKED IN THE RAIN," "FUNKY MONKS," "THE GREETING SONG," and "MELLOWSHIP SLINKY IN B MAJOR" just start and stop on a dime with such energy and gusto that GEORGE CLINTON would most definitely nod with approval. and then there are tender ballads composed in an attempt to almost transform FOLK music and INDIE ROCK into some odd hybrid, i.e. songs like "BREAKING THE GIRL," "I COULD HAVE LIED" and the iconic "UNDER THE BRIDGE."
where this record breaks down relates to frontman ANTHONY KEIDIS, who is arguably the wild card and often a perpetual weak link in their discography. there are plenty of sex-crazed, cringe-inducing lyrics on "SIR PSYCHO SEXY" and the titled track "BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK," which have not aged well especially in light recent allegations of habitual and continuous sexual impropriety during this era in the band's history. these allegations the band has attempted to address and atone for, so i will take them at their word, but it still makes some of the more lurid subject matter a little bit hard to stomach given such.
my recollection of this record at the time was watching them play "GIVE IT AWAY" at the 1993 GRAMMY's with GEORGE CLINTON. i was in third grade so i just remember it all looking and feeling ridiculous. years later in 1999 when attending high school in MASSACHUSETTS i was able to see the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS play RHODE ISLAND on their co-headlining tour with the FOO FIGHTERS in support of CALIFORNICATION (WARNER BROS, 1999). it was the return of the classic lineup and i jst remember being enthralled by FRUSCIANTE and FLEA. their sense of musical connection is really something to be witnessed. one of the better live bands ive ever seen.
so in summation, BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK is a classic, if not problematic, record by a seminal band who undoubtedly inspired everyone that came after to create new hybrid sounds not heard or imagined before. and that is pretty cool.
photo & text by nacrowe
in the 80 and 90s with maybe the exception of scene favorites JANE'S ADDICTION and FISHBONE, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS were the de facto definitive ALTERNATIVE band from LOS ANGELES. incorporating disparate elements of PUNK aggression with off-kilter FUNK feel and time signatures, their sound was unique in an era where originality was a virtue. their revolving door of guitarists (HILLEL SLOVAK, JOHN FRUSCIANTE, DAVE NAVARRO) and the foundational core of FLEA and CHAD SMITH provided one of the great rhythm sections of all-time.
but this is ANTHONY KIEDIS' memoir and i'm not gonna lie, he's the weak link in my opinion. i'll just say that up front. even on their best releases, his word-salad approach to lyrics and frat-boy demeanor and general public womanizing was something to be tolerated and not applauded (this is even more problematic given the later accusations that have come about in recent years way after the publication of this book).
getting my bias out of the way, SCAR TISSUE (HYPERION 2004) by ANTHONY KIEDIS and LARRY SLOMAN is mainly about the three major relationships of KIEDIS' life up until this point: his father BLACKIE DAMMETT, his best friend and bandmate FLEA and drugs, specifically heroin. for as much as this book is about his unconventional nomadic upbringing and later numerous trysts and relationships over the years, which all seemed pretty boring quite frankly, in the end I found this book to be about an extroverts need for attention in a community only too willing to grant such.
i can only imagine what growing up with a failed-actor, drug-addled father would do to a young psyche. the messages spoken and unspoken about one's self-worth in a HOLLYWOOD community that trades on humans like they are commodities. not to mention how women were treated as arm candy in an ambitious arms race for fame and notoriety.
I found KIEDIS to be pretty shallow on most subjects in the book with the exceptions being his thoughts on those three relationships and how they informed him as a person. in some ways this book feels like a celebration of his friends and the LOS ANGELES artistic community that challenged and supported his band. for that I applaud him, but it doesn't alter the fact that on some level he's a LARS ULRICH-like impotent mouthpiece where his talk is supported by the actual talent and virtuosity of those around him.
or maybe i am too hard on him, this was written during a renaissance in his career after two successful reunion albums with legendary guitarist JOHN FRUSCIANTE. maybe he was coming to terms with the fact that he was a chauvinistic douche. i doubt it.
if you are fan of KIEDIS, definitely check out this book, if not do yourself a favor and listen to a FAITH NO MORE or MR. BUNGLE record. When is MIKE PATTON gonna put out a book, anyway?