Ever since I discovered them in the early 1990s with the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been among my favorite bands. I can attribute this largely, at this point, to the fact that Flea is a KICK-ASS bass player and nearly every bassline from BSSM and before is funky, head-boppin’, “woah, that’s tight,” good. The other half of this love affair is, or used to be, Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics and the rappish style in which he delivered them–now, unfortunately, he’s learned how to sing and forgotten how to write, both of which I find tragic. I read about half of his biography, and it seems that he thinks his newfound singing “ability” is a good thing–along with his newfound popularity, but I think quite the opposite. Any douchebag who can carry a tune can accomplish vocally what Kiedis is doing now. Not everyone, however, can write the lyrics he used to write (the pinnacle of which, in my opinion, was the entire Blood Sugar album), or deliver them in the hyperactive, overcaffeinated manner of early Kiedis–you could almost see him jumping up and down, head-banging to his own brilliance. Part of that, perhaps, was the ridiculous amount of illicit substances he was jamming into every available inlet of his body–they all were. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way with brilliant druggie musicians–either they die in a messy overdose/suicide/wreck at their peak or they mellow into mediocre family-friendly has-beens.
The other day a friend of mine asked me to make her a mix of Chili Peppers songs–she had never really gotten into them, she said, but she was curious because so many of her friends were crazy about them. I told her most of what I liked was their old stuff, which she said echoed her other friends’ sentiments, but when I sat down to make the mix today, I loaded all of the albums into my iTunes and listened to each song on the newer albums (By The Way and Californication–a friend’s sister absconded with Stadium Arcadium, a crime which would be unforgivable if it hadn’t been so disappointing) to try to find a few newer songs to add to the mix. I clicked and double-clicked, listening to the first few bars of each song before saying to myself, “Oh, that’s the trash I heard on the radio a few years back,” or “Yep, he’s definitely gone soft.” In the end, I came up with two songs to put on her mix that were from albums after Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and had it not been for the principle of across-the-board representation, they wouldn’t have made the cut.
The thing that’s so depressing about this reinforcement of my already-formed opinion about Kiedis’ creative decline is that Flea is still a kick-ass bass player, he just appears to be wasting his punk-funk talent on a bunch of pop songs intended for a group of people who will probably never know that Freaky Styley or Uplift Mofo ever existed. It’s almost like they themselves have forgotten where they started and who they were playing for, and it’s sad. They’re one of the few extremely talented bands of my youth who are still intact (physically–I mean ALIVE) and together, but they’re not. Aside from the catchy basslines, they’re a different band altoghether; one I don’t really want to listen to–ever. I’m a musically loyal person, and it breaks my heart to hear myself say that a band I’ve always loved has turned into pansy-ass commercial garbage. But there, I said it.