Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Red Hot Chili Peppers

  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers [EMI America, 1984] B-
  • Mother's Milk [EMI, 1989] C+
  • Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Warner Bros., 1991] **
  • One Hot Minute [Warner Bros., 1995] Dud
  • Californication [Warner Bros., 1999] *
  • By the Way [Warner Bros., 2002] B-
  • Stadium Arcadium [Warner Bros., 2006] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers [EMI America, 1984]
As minstrelsy goes, this is good-hearted stuff (and as minstrelsy, it had better be). The reason it doesn't quite come off isn't that it's good-hearted, either: the band is outrageous enough, though probably not the way it thinks it is. Perhaps there's a clue in this mysterious observation from spokesperson Flea: "Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow have great raps, but not that great music with it." In a bassist, that's serious delusion. B-

Mother's Milk [EMI, 1989]
Punks who loved Hendrix and P-Funk way way back, they're finally cashing in on their good taste, and though unbelievers dis their sincerity, execution's the problem. They didn't have the chops to bring it off then, and by pushing the guitar up front they sound even cruder now. But they're perfectly nice fellas, really--mention "compassion" in the very first verse. C+

Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Warner Bros., 1991]
they've grown up, they've learned to write, they've got a right to be sex mystiks ("Give It Away," "Breakin' the Girl") **

One Hot Minute [Warner Bros., 1995] Dud

Californication [Warner Bros., 1999]
New Age fuck fiends ("Scar Tissue," "Purple Stain"). *

By the Way [Warner Bros., 2002]
How desperate rock scribes are for shows of quality by bands of any remaining commercial clout. This piece of let's-slow-it-down-a-little isn't terrible unless you're expecting thee funk, but though it was greeted with hosannas in a slow news month, it's certainly a turn or two slacker than Californication. When you're an energy band, wisdom don't make much nevermind. But melodies, harmonies, and so forth are supposed to drag some spiritual stuff along with them. It's not enough for Anthony Keidis to get all mature--he's supposed to say something interesting about maturity. And he's never had thing one to say about anything else. B-

Stadium Arcadium [Warner Bros., 2006]
Only the familiar tale of their Grammy validation renders the familiar tale of their double album that shoulda been a single mildly interesting. Once a bassist's band, now a guitarist's band, they're most of all an '80s band, their spiritual core, such as it is, is rooted in the agony and ecstasy of heroin and cocaine. At least when the bassist ruled they livened up this overworked dynamic with beats. Now they tax it with tunes, at least when they're on their game--as in the dead-end relationship song "Desecration Smile" and the marriage proposal "Hard to Concentrate." B-