The Chilis have always harboured a gentler, emotional side. It is with By The Way that...
Daniel Pike 2002-11-28
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are renowned for their unique brand of funk-rap-punk-rock (reader, please feel free to add your own descriptors, according to taste and pretension. Neo and fusion are always good. Eclecticism is, apparently, passé). But, with By The Way, the Californian foursome have made things much simpler for all concerned by releasing what is essentially a straight-forward rock album.
Ok, so there may be some notional rap, funk, and a sniff of punkishness (punk not really being achievable in half measures). But it is a rock sound, with balladic verses and powerful harmonised choruses, that wins through.
This marks a definite continuation of the successes of their previous release, 1999's Californication. The strutting of old is replaced by a melancholy if ennobled air, pervasive in "Universally Speaking", "Dosed" and "I Could Die For You". The radio-friendly "Zephyr Song" with such lyrics as "In this perfect weather, we'll find a place together..." is even a little twee.
Although a rock album, By The Way is far from one dimensional. The energetic, "Can't Stop" and "On Mercury" cut to a ska feel while "Don't Forget Me" proves slow and gritty. The boisterous "Cabron" features arpeggiated guitars which brings to mind images of somewhere strangely medieval and Spanish.
The Chilis have seen their fair share of life's stress and tragedy. "Venice Queen" is dedicated to Kiedis' recently departed friend and drugs councillor Gloria Scott. His break up with long-time girlfriend Yohanna Logan perhaps further influenced the album's plaintive sound.
"Sex-god" posturing aside, The Chilis have always harboured a gentler, emotional side. It is with By The Way that a band famous for performing in no more than a "modesty sock" have finally reached maturity and managed to truly lay themselves bare.
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