ADRIAN THRILLS: Guitar genius made the Chilis red hot againApril 1, 2022
ADRIAN THRILLS: Guitar genius made the Chilis red hot again
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: Unlimited Love (Warner)
Verdict: Exuberant return
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS: Changeup (Blackheart)
Verdict: Punk legend goes acoustic
MOLLY TUTTLE & GOLDEN HIGHWAY: Crooked Tree (Nonesuch)
Verdict: Branches out nicely
The musical triumphs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have often been overshadowed by their unusual stage attire and chaotic personal lives.
They began life, in Los Angeles, as a one-night-only prank among childhood friends, and their 39-year career has never been a particularly smooth ride.
They have daubed themselves in warpaint, sung with giant lightbulbs on their heads… and even played almost naked, with only strategically placed socks preserving their modesty. But despite numerous line-up changes and drug problems (now well behind them), they continue to thrive as one of the most accomplished bands in rock.
New album Unlimited Love is their first with guitarist John Frusciante in 16 years and his return has reinvigorated the quartet. His dexterity was a major factor in the success of 1999’s Californication and 2002’s By The Way, and the restoration of his seemingly telepathic interplay with singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith harks back powerfully to those two classic albums.
The musical triumphs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers have often been overshadowed by their unusual stage attire and chaotic personal lives. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are pictured left to right, Flea, Frusciante, Smith and Keidis
A penchant for going over the top remains. Unlimited Love isn’t as weighty as 2006’s Stadium Arcadium — which spread its 28 songs across two, hour-long CDs — but it still runs on for 73 minutes, and a smattering of filler suggests the band, and producer Rick Rubin, struggled to whittle down some of their initial ideas.
Reassuringly, though, the ensemble playing that made them such a force in the early 2000s is intact. Frusciante, who rejoined in 2019, says the band got into the mood by jamming along enthusiastically to songs by Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, The Kinks and New York Dolls — and that exuberance spills over into their own material.
They begin by using two well-established Chili Peppers hallmarks — modern rock and tough funk. Frusciante drops the first of several extended, freewheeling solos into opening track Black Summer. Surging bass and drums illuminate Here Ever After.
As the grand dame of punk, Joan Jett has timed her latest return to perfection
They go on to switch effortlessly between the styles. White Braids & Pillow Chair echoes the melodic uplift of By The Way. The Heavy Wing is a churning rocker.
Poetic ballad Not The One is McCartney-esque in its sweetness, with Kiedis promising he would ‘do most anything to make you think that I’m the one’.
The funkier side comes to the fore on the stripped-down, percussive Whatchu Thinkin’ and excellent Poster Child. A classic ‘list song’, powered by Frusciante’s wah-wah effects pedal, the latter is a roll-call of famous names, including Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Duran Duran and rapper Flavor Flav.
Despite the occasional curve ball (jazzy moves on Aquatic Mouth Dance; reggae on Let ‘Em Cry; grunge-rock on The Great Apes) this is essentially the sound of ‘the Red Hots’ (as Kiedis affectionately calls them) playing to their strengths. It’s the perfect primer for their summer tour.
As the grand dame of punk, Joan Jett has timed her latest return to perfection.
We’re in the midst of a pop-punk revival, with Olivia Rodrigo and Avril Lavigne among those revisiting the pumped-up sounds of the late 1970s, and Miley Cyrus citing Joan as her greatest inspiration. Miley even called on Joan as a guest on her most recent album, Plastic Hearts.
Track of the week
Strange Game by Mick Jagger
Lending his bluesy howl to a slinky tale of ‘losers, misfits and boozers’, Jagger is on familiar ground in the strutting theme tune to new Apple TV+ spy drama Slow Horses. It’s a timely return ahead of The Rolling Stones’ 60th anniversary tour in June.
Rather than cash in by cranking out the high-octane riffs, the American has taken her music down a notch. Changeup, her first acoustic album, frames 25 of her best-known songs in an intimate setting. A career-spanning set, it reiterates the skill of a singer, 63, who transcends the ‘female rocker’ tag.
Assisted by her band The Blackhearts, she oversees some deft arrangements. There’s bass, drums and harmonica to augment her strumming, plus the occasional electrified solo. The onus might be on her artistry, but Jett’s rock and roll spirit is never far from the surface, her East Coast drawl a reflection of her family roots in Maryland rather than her teenage years in California.
She looks back to her all-girl band The Runaways on You’re Too Possessive and Cherry Bomb. The latter — ‘hello world, I’m your wild girl’ — was a girl power anthem two decades before the Spice Girls, while her more recent songs show how she’s matured.
Fragile, a reflection on mortality, was sung live on her U.S. tour this week as a poignant tribute to the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
The primary focus is on her 1980s solo hits. Even in an acoustic setting, Bad Reputation is fast and furious. There are covers, too, of The Replacements’ Androgynous and Tommy James & The Shondells’ Crimson And Clover.
The omission of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (her celebrated 1982 Arrows cover) is surprising, but does little to diminish the impact of this refreshing reinvention.
After two albums of Laurel Canyon-leaning songwriter fare, singer and guitarist Molly Tuttle returns to country on Crooked Tree.
Made with new bluegrass collective Golden Highway, it augments the Californian’s super-fast finger-picking with fiddle, mandolin, banjo and the lap steel of producer Jerry Douglas for a fuller, energetic sound.
The new songs are all originals. She duets with outlaw country star Margo Price on Flatland Girl, and links up with old-timey band Old Crow Medicine Show on Big Backyard. The yodelling on Nashville Mess Around grates, but Side Saddle is a playful duet with the redoubtable Gillian Welch.
Chili Peppers start a UK tour on June 22 (livenation.co.uk).
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