Alex Tamosius

Red Hot Chili Peppers
"By The Way"

10th June 2005
reviewer: Alex Tamosius
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: Warner
released: 8th July 2002
  1. By The Way
  2. Universally Speaking
  3. This Is The Place
  4. Dosed
  5. Don't Forget Me
  6. Zephyr Song, The
  7. Can't Stop
  8. I Could Die For You
  9. Midnight
  10. Throw Away Your Television
  11. Cabron
  12. Tear
  13. On Mercury
  14. Minor Thing
  15. Warm Tape
  16. Venice Queen

Itís only been half a decade since they were on the verge of destruction - another one of rock and rollís victims. Cleaning up their act after the release of the critically mauled 'One Hot Minute', the Chili Peppers transformed to megastar status with the brilliant 'Californication'. In some ways, the Chili Peppers' cult-like devoted fans of old felt ďlet downĒ by the apparent acceptance of the mainstream. The words "sold" and "out" were often used in the same sentence. But letís get one thing straight - have the Chilis mellowed with age? Yes. Have they lost it? You have to be joking.

The band seems to have reached a compromise in this album - both with their fans and with the commercial key to mega stardom - "pop" . Their fans of old will feel right at home as soon as the album starts with its title track, a funk/rap metal song filled with the usual Chili Pepper passion, yet maintaining a melodic and rhythmical verse structure, combined with a bass heavy rap-fuelled "best way to start a gig" chorus. Track 7 is another that hardcore fans will find familiar. 'Can't Stop' is a brilliant rap metal, melodic chorus song, with a guitar riff that will make any red blooded male want to learn to play one. If emotion was bottled and injected into a song, it would sound like this. It's a sublime sing-along song, really.

'By The Way' also has the Chili Pepper staple "mega ballad" in evidence and quantity (think 'Under The Bridge', 'Californication', 'Scar Tissue'), not to mention quality - 'This Is The Place', 'Don't Forget Me' and 'Midnight' all give evidence of the progression of the Chili Peppers' ability as excellent song smiths, rather than the blokes that wore socks on their willies, as they were previously known. They also seem to have developed a separate breed of their trademark ballads - ones with added sweetness. The tracks 'Dosed', 'Universally Speaking', 'I Could Die For You' and 'Tear' all provide a welcome contrast to the aforementioned few, that rather than clash, compliment. They all show an astounding songwriting ability within the band that would have been unthinkable several years ago.

There are of course as one would expect, and what their fans are dreading, examples of a new pop style developing with the band shown on the album- 'Minor Thing', 'On Mercury' and 'Zephyr Song' certainly show a more commercially acceptable and popular style, but to their credit, they have no less of the Chili Pepper spirit and passion that any other classic song by the band has. They are all songs that the band will not and certainly should not be ashamed of.

'Throw Away Your Television' provides the compulsory Chili Pepper "joke" song, yet itís actually rather good. 'Cabron' is a dip into the world of a Spanish salsa style of song that takes to the Chili Peppers' addition of funk very well. 'By The Way' finishes with an ambient wind down, in the form of 'Venice Queen' that has an ambient harmony quality to it, and is a great end to a great album.

While 'By The Way' may feature a maturity of a twenty year old former cult band, it's a maturity previously only shown by fine wine and Kylie Minogue. Every element of the band balances perfectly - Flea's bass compliments Frusciante's sharp and biting yet smooth when necessary guitar ring - blending into the background when required and taking the edge when called upon, it is a battle between the two of them constantly, but it's perfectly choreographed - it's West Side Story without the camp. Somewhat unusual for the style of band that they are, drummer Chad Smith never takes his playing to what some would call "overboard" and instead shows great awareness of the music going on around him, rather than blindly making holes in his instrument. Singer Anthony Kiedis shows an astonishingly wide vocal range and ability, again unthinkable several years ago on albums like, brilliant though they were, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik' and 'Mother's Milk'. 'By The Way' shows a great balance in their music, perhaps only achievable now they have reached a balance in their lives. While they may be entering many different new, some would say commercially acceptable, styles; they approach everything with their desire to innovate and with the classic Chili Pepper funk. And that funk has never sounded better.