If there were any truth to the myth that suffering breeds fine music, this would be it. For starters, band co-founder and lead guitarist Hillel Slovak had recently died of a heroin overdose. To make matters worse, drummer and co-founder Jack Irons had quit. It seemed as if Hillel Slovak’s death had taken the Red Hot Chili Peppers with him. This would lead to a time of soul searching and restructuring for the group, which would create what many consider to be the most famous line-up of the band: Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Flea, and Chad Smith.
The sound of this “new group” would debut on Mother’s Milk, but not fully realized until Blood Sugar Sex Magik, arguably, their best album to date. So, it isn’t a stretch to say that Blood Sugar Sex Magic was a rebirth album and a crossroads for a new band trying to find itself after monumental travesty.
How does a band find its soul? Its new voice? Well, if you’re the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you contract with a new record label, get Rick Rubin to produce, record in a mansion once owned by Harry Houdini, and arrange for Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting (1997), Milk (2008), to take a few photos, direct a few videos, and become art director for your project.
When these powers combine, they create something like a void in the time-space continuum; something so rare that it reverses the laws of physics and time. In today’s music, I believe it’s called a great album. In this case, an album which would be on every respectable “Best of the 90’s” list and, if you’re really ambitious, “Best of all time” list. With hits like “Give it Away,” “Under the Bridge,” “Suck My Kiss,” “Breaking the Girl,” and “If You Have to Ask,” Blood Sugar Sex Magik has deservedly earned its place in rock n’ roll history.
America had more or less known about the Red Hot Chili Peppers since 1983. However, with the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik it would open the band up to an international arena. It would pave the way for the expansion of the popularity of alternative rock, and help solidify the bands classic Southern California sound.
The album demonstrated an evolution in the band’s image and sound. They became more than sex-crazed nuts; they became politically aware, melodic nuts. We see Kiedis singing more on this album than previous ones in the past. Their sound changed with the introduction of Frusciante on lead guitar, which opened them up to more than just a heavy metal sound and connect to wider audiences.
The album opens with “Power of Equality,” which immediately demonstrated the evolution of the band from one that was only concerned with “partying on a pussy” (see Uplift Mofo Party Plan track number eight if you don’t believe me) to a band that doesn’t just vaguely criticize America for it’s inequality, but specifically picks targets like the media’s imbalance regarding racial portrayal of crime. The lyrics aren’t only spectacular, but the guitar screeches, sudden stops, and bass line make it a memorable opener.
“If You Have to Ask” is a funky tune that incorporates Anthony’s rapping skills, Flea’s skills on base, and John’s proficiency on lead guitar. When compared to the other singles released from the album it’s definitely the weaker of the bunch, but this shouldn’t suggest it’s a bad song. Throughout the album, Flea and Chad arguably make up the best modern rhythm section in all of rock n roll.
When comparing greatness, you accept that popularity isn’t relative to a song’s worth. One of the best songs of the album has to be “Breaking the Girl,” which showcased Anthony’s evolving singing abilities.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik features an evolution on Anthony’s behalf with more melodic tunes than previous albums. The highlight of this ability is unquestionably “Under The Bridge,” which Kiedis wrote after his sobriety conflicted with the lifestyle of his fellow band mates and created a feeling of loneliness. He found solace walking the streets of Los Angeles, which is where the lyrics get their meaning. Melodic guitar riffs and Kiedis’ melancholy tone make this song not only a gem on the album, but the band’s entire catalogue.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik also incorporates a metal feel heard in songs such as “The Righteous & the Wicked” and “Apache Rose Peacock,” which do a good job of showcasing John Frusciante and Chad Smith as competent instrumentalists. If there is one complaint about the album, it would be the closing song “They’re Red Hot,” which could be considered filler, but even that 1:12 tune one may find catchy.
For any fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is an album that is not only a favorite but also the one recommended anytime the band is mentioned to the occasional unfamiliar soul.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik solidified the Red Hot Chili Peppers as an international force and does not solely belong to the band, but all admirers of Rock n’ Roll.
Listed among Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of All Time, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a masterpiece that thrust the group into international popularity and single-handedly made John Frusciante quit due to the intense spotlight it attracted.
An album with that kind of power was in all probability responsible for thrusting the Red Hot Chili Peppers not only into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but also into the Walkman’s and iPods of generations to come.
Soon after Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released, the band would reach new levels of popularity that would eventually lead to John Frusciante’s leaving the band. The Red Hot Chili Peppers would go on to create several compilation albums and go through several guitarists (including Dave Navarro) in the interim period.
John Frusciante would rejoin the band to record the 1999 album Californication, the band’s most commercially successful album, which earned them a Grammy for the single “Scar Tissue.” Frusciante would eventually leave the band again and would be replaced by guitarist John Klinghoffer. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, marking a reunion between former and new bandmates.
Reviewer: Aaron Jacobs
IRC: Bill Pulice
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