At the time of this publishing, it’s been over a full week since Red Hot Chili Peppers made their highly-anticipated return with their twelfth studio album, Unlimited Love. And boy, what a magnificent week it has been basking in the joyful tapestry of sound the quartet has crafted this time around.
And while, yes, it is easy to hear that the album kicks some serious ass up front, an entire week to wade in all of its intricacies provides only more appreciation and connection to everything it has to offer.
While the album’s singles released before the full slate made its way into the world gave RHCP fans the kick of dopamine they’ve been waiting for since the camaraderie of this lineup was last captured on their 2006 double-album epic Stadium Arcadium, the true rush of creative evolution and beautiful musical chemistry is found within all the nooks and crannies of their full 17-song, hour-and-thirteen-minute offering, where the groove and passion pour out of each note played by a deeply connected Frusciante, Chad Smith and Flea, and every word – nonsensical or otherwise – uttered by a refreshingly inspired Anthony Kiedis.
Where the opening track “Black Summer” hovers with the warm glow of a California sunrise for what follows and quickly boils up to a familiar chaos, while also serving as the re-introduction to the true beauty long-lost in the guitar of Frusciante, by no means does it simply set the tone for the rest of the record. It’s only one ingredient in the recipe that makes this record such a succulent delight, as each song that follows, like “Here Ever After,” “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” “Not The One,” and “Poster Child,” feels like more of its own short-burst journey rather than pieces of a puzzle that tie the whole thing together. It’s gloriously all over the place, creatively, and that in and of itself is a cornerstone of what has made the Chili Peppers such a consistently titanic creative force over the years – but you didn’t really need us to tell you that.
While you can certainly draw fairly vague comparisons between the vibe of each song and something in the band’s back catalog, with some songs capturing the softer and more poetic side of Kiedis also found on Californication, and others harnessing the rhythmic power delivered by Flea, Smith and Frusciante on albums like By The Way, the obvious and engaging creative growth that brings the Peppers into 2022 not only shows versatility by revisiting those vibes of the early 2000s with a refreshed take, but also by somehow finding a new riff, funky lick or pulse-pounding groove that they had yet to already discover. Sure, there are points in the album that juke a face-melting jungle beat insanity that the band is synonymous with, but the more laid back composure found in tracks like “It’s Only Natural,” White Braids & Pillow Chair,” and “Bastards Of Light” provide just enough of a breather in their approaches to prepare us for the drive of tracks like “One Way Traffic” and “These Are The Ways” (Which, as the band recently acknowledged a heavy influence of The Who, could’ve been found in a rock opera penned by Pete Townshend), and allows for the free-flowing agility of the long-haul experience to hold a comfortable balance between wild and whimsical without making us yearn for any sort of over-the-top kick or that extra “something.”
Cruising into the back end of the album, “Veronica” and “Let ‘Em Cry” are drenched in their own contagious grooves, with the latter including a horn section that compliments Frusciante’s noodling with the chemistry of a vintage jazz band. Now, in the case of the penultimate track “The Heavy Wing,” it harbors not only the last punch of unbridled rock and roll on the album, but also the secret weapon of any Chili Peppers album, where Frusciante gets to belt out those unique, beautifully complimentary, and somewhat haunting singing chops of his own. To put it simply, it’s truly the cherry on top.
Closing out the record is “Tangelo,” a moody acoustic effort that once again flaunts that beautiful defiance deeply embedded in the fibers of the Peppers, and turns the common misconception that the final statement of an album needs to be a complete heater right on its head. But in a way, the atmospheric sort of detachment at the end of the song not only closes the door on a true work of art like a parent does to a sleeping child on Christmas Eve, but also leaves that door open in its own way where it may not exactly feel like the end of the record. It’s truly a chef’s kiss of a creative decision, and fully showcases one more time just how abso-f***king-lutely brilliant these four rock and roll hall of famers are when they work together.
To put it all into a single sentence, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have officially reignited the burn that has led them to gradually achieving “icon” status throughout nearly 40 years in the game. But then again, the question begs to be asked: When Rick Rubin got into a room with four soul brothers named Anthony Kieidis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith, what did you really think was going to happen?
Article: Jason Greenough