Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two-Discs Make For Much More Red Hot Chili Fun: Greatest Hits And Videos By Red Hot Chili Peppers!

The Good: A lot of fun songs, Good lyrics, Great videos
The Bad: Repetitive Sound, Some of the Videos are real lemons, too
The Basics: When the Red Hot Chili Peppers put together a compilation, they do it right with one cd and one dvd and a lot of fun on Greatest Hits And Videos!

Perhaps the best "Best of " cd I have encountered thus far was the U2 Best of cd from 1980 - 1990. It had all sorts of recognizable hits on the a-side (first disc) and then a whole set of b-side, rare tracks and remixes on the second disc. It was idea in that it provided people who liked U2 on the radio with all of their radio hits, then something new for them to appreciate beyond what they already knew. The Red Hot Chili Peppers Greatest Hits And Videos 2-disc set might be a close second to that. While perhaps people who liked what they heard by the Chili Peppers on the radio may have liked to hear more from the band on an extra disc, they are instead treated to a DVD of the group's videos. Having owned Californication (reviewed here!) and the single “Otherside” (reviewed here!)for some time now, I suspect that the Chili Peppers made the absolute right decision. This way they capitalize on the enjoyable portions of their enterprises (that's my subtle way of saying that had they gone with b-sides of music, more people who are casual fans who like what they hear by the Chili Peppers on the radio might be likely to abandon them).

The first disc of the greatest hits provides the listener with a wide variety (as wide as this group gets, anyway) of the rock and rock-pop songs that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have become known for. From their breakthrough hit "Under The Bridge," to the louder thrashing of "Suck My Kiss" to the quiet echoes of "Road Trippin'," all of the Chili Peppers best songs (save "The Zephyr Song") are here. The band even provides two new songs "Fortune Faded" and "Save The Population" which sound very much like the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs you may have heard on the radio. In short, they fit this collection very well.

The second disc is a DVD and has sixteen videos (the first disc has 16 songs) and the nice thing is that while many of the songs from the first disc are represented, there are tracks in video form that are not on the audio disc. The DVD includes the truly great videos "Otherside," "The Zephyr Song," and "By the Way." It has fun videos like "Aeroplane" (also not on the audio). The other videos that have no audio counterpart in this collection are "Around the World" and "Can't Stop."

What makes the two-disc set worth buying is that the Red Hot Chili Peppers know how to make great videos. The second disk, the DVD, is a great collection of the range of what music videos can be. From the pointless shots of the band just singing ("My Friends") to the genuine acting storytelling of "Otherside," there is a whole range here. Moreover, the Red Hot Chili Peppers seem to have a real sense of humor about what they are doing. As a result, you get zany videos like "By the Way," wherein the lead singer of the band is abducted by a crazed fan who auditions for him. There's a lot of enjoyment to be had from the visual elements the Red Hot Chili Peppers put into their videos, though watching the disc does force the viewer to ask "Why can't these guys seem to keep their shirts on?"

The gem of the DVD is that for every video there is a behind the scenes featurette that lasts the same length of time as the song. The way the Chili Peppers cheaped out here is that if you choose the "commentary" option while watching the video, you simply get the audio track from the featurette over the video. The little behind the scenes videos are very cool to see how some of the videos were made and the thought that went into them. It's a treat for anyone who likes music videos.

As for the music, this is heavier rock for the most part. The vocals of Anthony Kiedis are accompanied by the guitar and bass of John Frusciante and Flea and the thrashing drums of Chad Smith. Kiedis' singing ranges from heartfelt tenor in songs like "Soul to Squeeze" and "Scar Tissue" to loud, almost tuneless yelling in "Suck My Kiss." Fortunately, his more musical moments are evident in his later songs, so it's easy to believe the band is evolving its sound.

This Greatest Hits album illustrates either the limitations of or the focus of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their sound is very distinctive, but it stays fairly well focused in the rock/pop-rock corridor. This album contains no audacious experiments by the band into territory that is not fairly mainstream. One might argue that they helped to define what that mainstream in rock has become and that might be true. Unfortunately, is sounds like fairly early on in their career, they found a sound that works exceptionally well for them and they stuck with it.

So, for example, "Soul to Squeeze" and "My Friends" both sound slow and thoughtful in pretty much the same way. And "Suck My Kiss," from early in the group's career, sounds a lot like "Around The World" which is from one of their much later works. The reason I don't think this is a problem is that I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or, at least, I tend to like the Red Hot Chili Peppers I hear on the radio. If their album showed me anything it was that their preference may be toward something that is more metal, heavy rock than rock, pop-rock. It seems from this that the group knows what to capitalize on from their repertoire.

If you have never heard any of the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this is a rather non-threatening way to become acquainted with the band. I still recommend the two disc version for such a person because the videos are truly that good. If you want to know their sound, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a very guitar and drum driven rock sound that is most analogous to the Doors or Aerosmith. The difference is that the Red Hot Chili Peppers keep things less operatic than the latter and less haunting than the former. If you like rock and roll, this set is a good investment.

Fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (either their previous albums or just off the radio) will be treated to a collection of their best works from the past decade and a half. Those who like videos will be treated to some of the most creative ones out there. And if you're like me, you'll find that this truly is the best of this band and use this opportunity to get rid of "Californication" as well.

The best song is "Otherside" and the weakest is "Give It Away." The best video is "The Zephyr Song" while the worst is probably the retro-punk "Higher Ground."

For other former Artist Of The Month reviews, please check out my takes on:
Actually - Pet Shop Boys
Optiate - Tool
It Ain't Easy: The Essential Recordings - Wilson Pickett


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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