Friday, August 26, 2011
Now She's Taking Off Her Dress
On Tuesday, Red Hot Chili Peppers will release their 10th full-length album, I'm With You, which is notable for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the band has not released an album since 2005's Stadium Arcadium which, subsequently, has been the longest gap of time between albums. The second reason is far more notable seeing as it is the band's recording debut of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. With a lot of anticipation and excitement surrounding the release, here is a look at five quintessential songs from the band once known as Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.
1. Under the Bridge (Blood Sugar Sex Magik)
This is not quintessential in the sense of it being a great song or even winning awards. It is so because in under four and a half minutes, the line had been drawn once the song appeared radio and MTV. It became your favorite song, your girlfriend's favorite song, your teacher and their colleagues' favorite song and your parents' favorite song. Meanwhile, since it was significantly tamer than anything the band had recorded up to that point and even for that album (mind you, this also includes "I Could Have Lied" and "Soul to Squeeze"), it probably divided longtime fans with its success. The result, however, is that they had a hit single bigger than they could have possibly imagined and, in many respects, found the template for later successes ("Scar Tissue," "Otherside," "Snow (Hey Oh)," "My Friends," etc.).
2. Catholic School Girls Rule (Freaky Styley)
Twenty-six later, it is almost unfathomable that the band we see today were once a bunch of rowdy, sex crazed, funky punk rockers with socks on their penises and singing songs about catholic school girls pondering thoughts on oral sex but it happened. On top of that is Flea's punk-funk bass fusion and returning, founding guitarist Hillel Slovak's start-stop guitar lines that almost reset themselves after each line instead of being part of song's structure. If there was to be a song that best described the craziness of the RHCP of yesteryear, one has to look no further than this one minute, 55 second classic.
3. Stretch ("My Friends" single)
Stretch is an anomaly of the highest kind as it was one of the extremely rare times where RHCP truly sounded like themselves during the Dave Navarro era. Without a doubt, it is the funkiest of the tracks recorded with Navarro and a track where his musical background propels the chorus forward with probably the heaviest sounding chorus they have ever recorded. The funniest thing is that during the verses, the guitarist sounds a bit lost in trying to make the guitar funky to fit the music and on the rest of the song, it completely fits. Due to it being from the Navarro years (and a b-side at that), it was lost after John Frusciante's return. Hopefully, it will find its way into rotation with Klinghoffer.
4. Can't Stop (By the Way)
By the Way was an album that drastically changed the band's sound and moved more toward a melodic rock sound. You could hear the work they put into the album but, for me, it could have been better and, at times, seemed a bit off ("Cabron"???). Thankfully, "Can't Stop" was one of the album's cuts (and, the only single) that kept this album in rotation for me. Instrumentally, it is one of my favorite RHCP songs with a solid rhythm section, a catchy rhythm and Frusciante's coiled, springy guitar lines. The song, as a whole, comes together in a way that makes it hard to believe that the Frusciante and Flea were having problems with the album's direction its recording (almost leading to Flea's departure). If the album, as a whole, had followed this track's lead, "Cabron" would have never existed. Sadly, neither would "Tear" which is one of the other highlights of this album.
5. Pretty Little Ditty (Mother's Milk)
One of the first songs written with Frusciante and the only one recorded during DH Peligro's (Dead Kennedys, Nailbomb, Peligro) brief stint on drums (he also co-wrote three tracks on Mother's Milk including the single, "Taste the Pain."). Recording during an introductory jam session between Flea and Frusciante, this track best represents their chemistry as musicians, their talent as musicians and provides a small glimpse into the band's eventual successes musically. It is softest and most delicate moment on the album but one that, oddly and thankfully, led to recording of the breakthrough album.