FIFTEEN YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE L.A. HEDONISTS CONCOCTED THEIR FOUR-TIME GRAMMY WINNING MAGNUM OPUS, BUT THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS HAVE CLAWED THEIR WAY BACK TO THE TOP SEAT IN ALTROCKDOM WITH NEW ALBUM UNLIMITED LOVE
BY AMANDA MCCOY
In 1984, a troupe of shirtless, sun-dazed Angelinos released their eponymous debut album, Red Hot Chili Peppers, jumpstarting a nearly 40-year career that would eventually hatch 11 additional albums, 80 million records sold, six Grammys, and innumerable hair ips. They were the living embodiment of the SoCal zeitgeist of the late 20th century: boys bred by the beach, blending genres like bass-slapping funk, garage grunge, punk, and then-burgeoning rock-rap (leader singer Anthony Kiedis is notorious for his limited vocal range and regularly spits rapid- re verses that melt into low-sung choruses a la “Around the World”). The band first tasted the flavor of superstardom with 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the album responsible for mega-hit “Under the Bridge,” a melancholy love letter to Los Angeles. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the rollicking boys from L.A. would take their seats on the throne of alt-rock. Stadium Arcadium, a 28-track behemoth, entered the Billboard 200 at the top spot and sold 442,000 copies in the first week alone (eventually reaching quadruple platinum). It’s been widely regarded as the band’s magnum opus.
Following Stadium’s release, the soulful lead guitarist John Frusciante who had returned to the band in the late 1990s after overcoming a drug addiction left again, ostensibly to focus on his solo career. The rest of the group soldiered on, penning a pair of follow-up albums that garnered tepid reviews, but they have been mostly silent since 2016 until now
With Frusciante back on guitar, the now 38-year veterans celebrated a homecoming with the release of their 12th LP, Unlimited Love, on April 1, and for the first time in 15 years, the Peppers are back at number one. The 17-track album also saw the return of producer Rick Rubin, who spearheaded every project since 1991 but was absent on 2016’s The Getaway.
Here, the four who also include inimitable bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith settled into their former magic, from the vintage funk of “She’s a Lover” to the sonic haze of “Black Summer.” The guys might be middle aged (albeit still donning washboard abs with pride), but their sound is untarnished with time, and their 40-year success story is a testament to overcoming both tumult and tragedy while still remaining hedonists at heart.
Red Hot Chili Peppers