Friday, February 4, 2011

Opening Another Artist Of The Month: The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers Isn't!

The Good: One or two tracks
The Bad: Duration, In no way indicative of the best of this band
The Basics: Jumbled and often inarticulate, the Red Hot Chili Peppers featured on The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers is anything but.

Sometimes, I do things to try to keep my wife happy. Chief among those things lately has been in my movie selections at home and in reorganizing my Artist Of The Month selections for my music reviews around people that she does not completely hate. After she drove cross country with me listening to Pete Seeger I figured I owed her. To that end, I picked the Red Hot Chili Peppers as one of my Artists Of The Month and unfortunately, the first album I was able to get in was one of their early albums which goes by the terrible mistitle The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Before the nasty comments begin, it is worth noting two things: 1. the Red Hot Chili Peppers have an amazing "Best Of" album (see link at bottom) which is more of a career-encapsulating album and 2. The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers is a reprint of an album released in 1998 which is arguably from before the Red Hot Chili Peppers had most of their hits. Ironically, this album neglects the mainstream hits the band had before this point, like the songs "Under The Bridge," "My Friends," "Soul To Squeeze" and "Aeroplane." So, certainly for those looking for mainstream Red Hot Chili Peppers, this album is anything but the true best of the band.

At this point in their career, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were a very traditional-sounding rock and roll band with a funky sound and The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers contains a strangely underwhelming mix of songs that were never mainstream hits for the band. Moreover, the forty-five minute album does not even fully capitalize on the creativity of the band's members. With only ten tracks, three of the songs are cover songs ("Higher Ground," "Fire" and "If You Want Me To Stay"). To the credit of the band members, they provide all of the vocals and play the instruments on the songs, even if they are not involved in the production of the album.

Instead, The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers is a monotonously loud compilation of Red Hot Chili Pepper songs that are universally uptempo and feature the guitars loud and quick. This is the type of rock music that most people want to play loud, but unfortunately, this is not the best collection of the talents of the members of the band. Recognizable to those who currently follow the band are Flea and Anthony Kiedis. Instrumentally, the Red Hot Chili Peppers in this incarnation is a remarkably simple group with a sound that is very much of a traditional garage rock band. The sound is almost exclusively that of a traditional guitar, bass, drums group.

Even so, there is a little variation on a few of the songs. "Higher Ground" has a funkier sound to it and the guitarwork to it is produced to be sublimated to the drums. Similarly, Flea takes up the trumpet on one song and "Taste The Pain" features a cello. Largely, though, the songs are up-tempo songs with loud drums and guitars to match with the intent to have listeners bobbing their heads and holding up lighters at concerts (I imagine).

Vocally, the songs are led by Anthony Kiedis and he sings with a pretty limited range on these songs. He is in the low tenor range and he occasionally shouts and not all of the lyrics are clearly presented by him and listeners are often forced to listen to these songs over and over again just to tell what they are singing.

The lyrics on these early songs alternate between the nonsenically simple and inane. Take, for example, the album's opener, which is filled with imagery, but some of the most inane rhymes the band ever came up with. When they sing "One day while bathing in the sea / My talking dolphin spoke to me / He spoke to me in symphony / From freedom's peace beneath the sea / He looked to me eyes full of love / Said yes we live behind the sun / Behind the sun / The sun goes up / And the sun gets down / But like the heart of the sun / My heart continues to pound" ("Behind The Sun") I wince every time. The lines are somewhat embarrassing for their simplicity, especially when compared to the lines from "Higher Ground" or "Fire" which are more expressive, emotive and utilize a higher level of diction.

Not all of the songs originally by the Chili Peppers are bad, though. "Fight Like A Brave" sings about Kiedis's attempts to get clean from heroin and the words resonate. Similarly, "Knock Me Down" is presented with the humbling lines "If you see me getting by, / If you see me getting high, / Knock me down. / I'm not bigger than life" and they work.

But largely, these songs are unrecognizable and loud songs that present a very different version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers than most fans know and love. The funk/dance nature of some of the songs is off-putting and incongruent with the more rock-themed songs, so the compilation comes together poorly as a cohesive album. There are far better choices for fans than this.

The best song is "Higher Ground" and the low point is pretty much everything else. This album may easily be passed by.

For other works by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, please check out my reviews of:
"Otherside" (single)
Greatest Hits And Videos


For other single or album reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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