More 90s/00s bands: Radiohead vs Red Hot Chili Peppers

Perhaps a strange comparison but since the last 90/00 band I reviewed was Radiohead…I heard about the Red Hots back during Uplift Mofo Party Plan from my punkrock cousin in California who thought they were rad. Listening to that album (besides the obvious snickers at the Special Secret Song Inside) pretty much blew my mind from the mix of ska, funk and punk all well-produced. From the thrashy Fight Like a Brave to the Dylan cover Subterranean Homesick Blues, the disk rocks cover to cover. This inspired me to start at the beginning with Red Hot Chili Peppers which I loved for the brash funky style and Freaky Styley where Hillel Slovak makes his debut. Of the two, Freaky Styley is as described by the wikipedia article loose and better produced – by George Clinton.  To be honest, life kind of moved on and I didn’t really listen to Mother’s Milk when it came out despite it being a strong album with classic tracks like Taste the Pain and their excellent covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”  and Hendrix “Fire”. The next album that really kicked me in the ass was Blood Sugar Sex Magick. I think it is hands-down the best material ever recorded from the Chilis. There are no weak points here. Rock, funk, punk, and ballads are all well-represented and excellently produced. However, from here on out: One Hot Minute, Californication, By the Way and Stadium Arcadium, I found them flat, lacking inspiration and repetitive. For me, they never got back to where they were on Blood Sugar. Was it a fluke? Was it Frusciante? I don’t know but for me the sound just kind of becomes trademark Chilis and I think I was expecting more changes and daring from them and just found them a bit complacent. OK, so they refused that there music be used on some crappy TV shows like American Idol but still they did do a Guitar Hero and did the classic stadium tours and whatnot. I saw them here in Paris some years back – must have been around 2004 I believe, and it was pretty mediocre. The sound was lousy and Kiedas forgot some of the words to Under the Bridge. Strange. It seems to me that as soon as Kiedas tries to sing rather than rap, it all goes to shit. I really preferred the rapping, slap bass Chilis to the warmed over Stadium Arcadium Chilis…

So for me Radiohead, although a bit more low-key and far less funky, pull ahead on both daring and creativity and ability to evolve. They also get credit for not going into auto-destruction mode with heroin and coke – I was a bit shocked and saddened to read during researching this article that when Frusciante rejoined the Chilis for Californication, he had lost all his teeth, nearly died when his house burnt down and was penniless. How pathetic. Sometimes I am inclined to compare them to the Stones: both bands lost guitarists to heroin and other drugs (Bruce Jones and Hillel Slovak), both had members heavily addicted to heroin for very, very long periods of time (primarily Keith but also Charlie and others and of course Kiedas and Frusciante) and yet somehow both holding on (at least the core members in each case) for years. In both cases, there was a high point of creativity and then a long steady decline where the bands still perform live but their studio output is largely derivative and hardly comparable to their best work. Compared to Radiohead who has less albums of course and yet has consistently surprised and extended themselves.

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About Michael Finocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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4 Responses to More 90s/00s bands: Radiohead vs Red Hot Chili Peppers

  1. Ed McBride says:

    I’ll take the Chili Peppers in the the car with the windows down, and Radiohead everywhere else, especially in the dark with good pair of headphones.

    • mfinocchiaro says:

      I agree as long as the Chili’s is from Uplift Mofo or Blood Sugar. However for Radiohead, Bodysnatchers, Karma Police, The Bends, Loser…and many others are also “roll the windows down” don’t you think?

  2. Impressive comparison. I enjoyed reading the post. Honest, true, direct. Radioheads have so much to offer. Thanks for sharing.

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