Friday, January 28, 2011

Murky, Not Hot, In the Californicating Sun: Californication Is Best Defined By Its Hits!

The Good: A few catchy singles with good lyrics
The Bad: A majority of tracks that are tired, boring or just plain silly.
The Basics: Buy only if you like rock, not pop, and you can't find anything more intelligent to spend your money on.

I'm in the process of moving my Red Hot Chili Peppers reviews into the blog - check out my review of the single "Otherside" here! - and I am faced with a dilemma I have had for almost a decade now: Californication. Californication is an album that has two sides, the public face and the actual experience. The public face is the four U.S.-released singles, the reality of the album is the full album. The difference is the full album sounds almost nothing like the popular singles from it.

If you're used to pop-rock, the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Californication are likely way too heavy on the rock side for you. Even though they had the air-friendly "Otherside," "Scar Tissue," and "Californication," such singles aren't indicative of the material that populates most of the album. If your radio station did not play "Around The World" then you're likely to not enjoy this album. "Around the World" is a rock piece that is indicative of most of the album Californication. If you're used to rock, you could certainly hope for something more intelligent than this album.

Californication succeeds when it actually edges closer toward the pop sections with the above three tracks and the anthemic "Savior" and well paced "Parallel Universe." The other tracks (save "Road Trippin'") tend to be much heavier, much more lyrically banal, and easily less listenable. "I Like Dirt" stands out as one of the most boring and pointless songs both on the album and ever written. I reference Oasis' songs "I Can See A Liar" and "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is" for pointless, repetitive songs and "I Like Dirt" is equally silly. It is almost as if the band said, "People expect us to do rock, so we'll put out the album with all of this stuff on it." But when they depart from that they make both a truer sound and a more interesting collection of songs.

What works on the tracks that do work is the lyrics. "Otherside" tells wonderfully a story of loss and desire from a partner who is desperately trying to communicate. "Californication" sings the story of a California day. "Scar Tissue" sings about the mistakes made in choosing a mate and not recognizing the signs of an imperfect union. These three songs adequately express emotion and tell stories.

The longer a c.d. is the happier I am. This is a good general rule. Californication manages to be an exception at 56:17. It's long enough but the arrangement of it is pretty poor - after the first 20 minutes, it's downhill. Fast and hard. And the album doesn't even begin with a decent track. Every now and then a cd puts all of the good songs at the beginning or all at the end, the Red Hot Chili Peppers here manage to spread their success out, but for the most part the best songs are at the beginning.

If you like what you've heard on the radio from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, check out their greatest hits album – all of the singles are on there and you won't be bogged down by half the garbage that is on this album. Interestingly enough, though, the good songs are good enough to hold on to; I just went through and edited my c.d. collection and this one survived. Maybe it's grown on me or maybe the six decent tracks are good enough to keep me entertained.

The ONLY c.d. I own that I skip tracks on, though. The strongest track is "Otherside" the weakest of the weak links is "I Like Dirt."

For other former Artist Of The Month reviews, please check out my takes on:
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones
What Am I Gonna Do About You - Reba McEntire
It Ain’t Easy: The Essential Recordings - Wilson Pickett


For other music reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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