Fuck Blood Sugar Sex Magik. You wanna hear the best Red Hot Chili Peppers album you go right out and pick up One Hot Minute. Criminally, but possibly thankfully, the only album they recorded with Dave Navarro on guitar, after John Frusciante freaked out in the face of stardom and retreated into a heroin fuelled hibernation. Navarro was made for stardom, styled to within an inch of his life to be rock cool. He fucked and married Carmen Electra for god’s sake. And the man can play some mean guitar. Sessions though fruitful were also apparently tense, an atmosphere that seeps into the albums sound. The artwork, a radical departure from the bands earlier covers, left the hyped up party boy image behind, it’s similarity to a children’s book somewhat disguising unease contained within.
Gone was the youthful funk energy of Mothers Milk, the highpoint of their early years that was the perfect culmination of what they’d been doing up until that point, a clearing house of those feelings and those messages and a stage setter for a new period of musical growth. Barely audible was the clean pop sheened funk of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a semi-masterpiece containing some of the best songs the band had and has written. Navarro introduced a darker edge, metallic riffs and psychedelic overtones. Singer Anthony Keidis’ recurring drug problem had done exactly that and recurred, bringing a jaded, sombre mood to much of the lyrical content. Flea, his bass tone no longer so prominent in the sound thanks to Navarro’s dirty guitar tones (a far departure from the cleaner sound of Frusciante’s Stratocaster punch) shines in well placed bass solo’s such as the furious ending of Coffee Shop and his first lead vocal performance on Pea. Chad smith as always, played drums.
I can still clearly see in my head images from the video for first single and album opener Warped. Keidis dressed like a badly aged Madonna (pretty prophetic too, the current resemblance is uncanny) and then song explodes. Against a bright red background (the signature colour of the album, visually and aurally) the band launch into action, the jarring, almost hyper-speed Sabbath riff driving the song with Keidis singing about his own world being warped by his heroin use. The way his words are drawn out to fill out the vocals lines is resonant of Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley (RIP), heroin the common factor in both. The moment where the band comes in at the start of this song is always guaranteed to make me want to jump around, and stands as one of my favourite album openers of all time.
There’s hardly a weak moment. Aeroplane (another fantastic vocal performance and a great lyric), Deep Kick (darkly psychedelic and for me a real signature of the album) and My Friends are all great tracks. Coffee Shop is one of two towering marriages of the early Chili Peppers funk sound to the metal riffing of Navarro, the other being Shallow Be Thy Game. The aforementioned bass solo is an album highlight, powerful and dominant as the track races in chaos around it. One Big Mob (the first upbeat track of the album), Walkabout (more great performances from everyone) and Tearjerker (doing exactly what it says on the tin) lead into the shuddering, throbbing title track with its constant refrain of “am I all alone” and anthemic chorus. Falling In To Grace is as close as the album comes to filler, a killer bass groove and not much else, though it is a killer groove . Shallow Be Thy Game is a scathing indictment of churches and their desecration of old world cultures and traditions, and features the best lyrics Anthony Keidis every sang on any song anywhere ever, sung with great passion. This song is, in my humble opinion, the greatest Red Hot Chili Peppers song ever, Flea’s bass playing rumbling along wonderfully and Navarro getting into the funk but doing it his way, with huge metallic slabs throughout. Transcending rounds out the album, written by Flea for friend River Phoenix, a moving tribute particularly with the “like no other, I love you you’re my brother” couplet.
All up, One Hot Minute is one the few albums I can always listen to from start to finish and still be emotionally, mentally and physically moved each time. It evokes memories in me of the time in which it was released, and makes me wonder what else this line up could have come up with, and would it all be so pink and mellow like the work with the returned and revitalised Frusciante.
By: Roger Killjoy