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By The Way

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Release Date: 07.09.02
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rock

70 Music-Critic Score
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by: bill aicher


It's an extremely rare occurrence for a rock band to enjoy a great amount of popularity in its early days, fall off the radar for a few years, then come back and instantly become more popular than they'd ever been before. During their early years, The Red Hot Chili Peppers were at the edge of the popular rock envelope; their funk/rap/rock sound was wholly original and their shocking behavior (socks on cocks, etc.) was more than enough to draw the band increased attention as a modern rock anomaly.


Somehow amidst all this madness the band released their now-legendary ode to smack, "Under the Bridge," and hardly a person in the world was unaware of their presence. Still, with all the drugs and band upheavals (out with Frusciante, in with Dave Navarro, out with Navarro, back with Frusciante, etc.) the band nearly lost itself in the struggle. But then something happened - they released Californication, an album showcasing a more mature Chili Peppers and which amazingly found the Red Hot Chili Peppers sounding more like a band than they ever had before.


It was also the album that blew the band up on modern rock radio more than they had ever previously imagined.


Now, three years later, this aging rock foursome has returned with yet another album, entitled By The Way. Featuring a rather large collection of songs crafted in a similar style to Californication, By The Way finds the band once again exploring everything that's happened to them before and how it got them where they are.


Make no mistake, this is not the Red Hot Chili Peppers of Freaky Styley or The Uplift Mofo Party Plan - like any truly gifted band By the Way exemplifies a much mature sound than they'd created nearly 20 years before. There's still the invariably impressive bass from Flea and ripping guitar from Frusciante, but it's also ripe with orchestration and horns and sweeping electronics. Basically it's aurally outstanding.


As a critic, it can be extremely tempting to be a complete bastard to a band. Going into listening to By the Way I was intent on tearing this album apart - "It's pop-rock crap!" "It's just Californication part two!" "They're getting old and so is their music." Still, I couldn't help but be drawn in by this disc. Sure, there are a few missteps (the ill-conceived "Kill Your Television" and the latin-inspired and repetitive "Cabron" - but besides these few forgivable mistreads By the Way is absolutely one of the band's strongest releases, if not their best yet.


That being said, for my review of By The Way I borrowed a copy of the album from a friend. Remember, I didn't expect to like the disc - so why would I buy it? (We couldn't get our mitts on a promo). Tomorrow I'll be giving the disc back to him, and I'm not planning on buying it for myself. I've never been a huge Chili Peppers fan and despite all its positives, By The Way still isn't enough to turn me.


Almost - but not quite. 18-Aug-2002 1:42PM