Classic Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released what many people considered to be their best ever album in 1999. Californication was a hit that propelled the band into the forefront of the rock world with a great set of catchy songs, defined by the energy of frontman Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea. But how would they follow up this album’s success? They could, of course, release an album of similarly-styled songs to capitalise on the previous album’s popularity. Or maybe make an album of even more easily-accessible songs to push themselves even further into the mainstream. What they ended doing was a change of style, but it was neither of those things. By The Way was a rock revolution.

This album opted for a more melodic sound than the previous album, being led by the beautiful guitar melodies of John Frusciante rather than the energetic bass of Flea. With the exception of a few songs, the songs were a lot slower and focused more on creating a fuller, more beautiful sound. But this wasn’t giving up on their old sound; it was more an evolution of sorts. Each song was masterfully crafted and showed some of vocalist Anthony Kiedis’ best ever lyrics, particularly in ‘Dosed’, a sombre but beautiful ode to Hillel Slovak, the original guitarist of the band, who sadly passed away in 1988 due to drug problems. But not only are the lyrics extremely heartfelt, the guitar in this song is a lesson to anyone who wants to layer several guitar tracks.

While ‘Dosed’ was an evolution for the band, they definitely had callbacks to their older songs, in the form of bass-driven ‘Throw Away Your Television’, and the anthemic ‘Can’t Stop’. Flea leads both of these songs perfectly, using his bass to drive the songs along. He is ever-present in the album, but these represent some of his best work. Songs like these are rare however, giving way to slow ballads and more experimental work. Of this experimental work, ‘On Mercury’ deserves a lot of praise for the inclusion of new instruments, such as the trumpet. It is wonderfully catchy too. Of the slower songs, particularly ‘The Zephyr Song’ and ‘Don’t Forget Me’ stand out. The former experiments with electronic drum sounds to great effect, whereas the latter has the prefect blend of guitar and bass to make it stand out hugely.

To conclude, this blend of material perfectly typified the album. This album was a diverse but perfect departure from Californication that showed the bands ability to make more than just their original brand of funk rock. They pushed themselves even further than they ever had before, and came out with one of the best albums of their long and illustrious career. Whatever type of music you’re into, this album is something you have to listen to.

Best song: Dosed

Score: 10/10

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