Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

An AE Album Review - Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium"

There have been three types of double albums in the CD era:

  1. True movie-length epics of related songs, such as the Drive-By Truckers' "Southern Rock Opera",
  2. Two contrasting albums, one being more mainstream work for a band and the other showing a different (usually softer) site (the Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" and the Foo Fighter's "In Your Honor").
  3. The work of egomaniacs who are too proud of everything they produce and feel that every track deserves "A" status; Guns 'n' Roses' "Use Your Illusion" I & II being the prime example.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Stadium Arcadium" doesn't really fit any of those categories. The first type wasn't going to happen, as the Peppers rarely find a theme that's sufficient for a single track, much less a complete album. Option #3 requires someone such as Axl Rose, and we're all fortunate that there's only one of him. That leaves the ying-and-yang sort of double personality double album, but SA doesn't quite fit that model, either. Sure, maybe with different sequencing of the tracks, maybe we'd get something with more of a black-and-white flavor, as "Californication" and "By the Way" showed that the band is capable of transforming its punk-funk style into something closer to that of the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

But the melodiac tracks find themselves sprinkled amongst others that could have been outakes from 15 years ago (almost like a Supersized edition of "Californication"), and the result is a bit of a jumbled mess. As a single work, SA frankly falls flat. But there are individual songs that are among the best ever recorded by the Peppers, such as "Dani California", "She's Only 18" (with a guitar solo that's damn near Hendrix-like), "Especially in Michigan" (probably recorded to win back Midwesterners like Oberon and I who have gravitated towards Local H), and "Readymade" (maybe the closest thing to a straight-up southern rock song that RHCP has every laid down on tape).

On all of the album's tracks, the bass pops with the the style that Flea has refined over the years, bridging Chad Smith's drumming together with John Frusciante's amazing guitar work, and Anthony Kiedis actually sings half-way decently. Even on the some of the weaker songs (which are by no means terrible), the band member's individual attributes shine through and still lead to an enjoyable listening experience.

Much like the other albums that fall into categories 2 and 3, though, I'm left wishing that a single, super-strong 70-minute consolidated work was the end result. Fortunately, we have iTunes playlists to take care of this problem. A few more listens through the whole thing, and I should be able to pick out my 10-12 favs and create my own ideal album, just as I finally had the chance to do last fall with "Use Your Illusion".

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