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Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication (1999)

August 29, 2014

My thanks to the fictional Ben Wyatt and my non-fictional wife for inspiring this post!

[Album 339/1001]220px-RedHotChiliPeppersCalifornication

Time to get back.

Back to where I (once) belong every September.

Back to school.

As you might have guessed, I’ve recently found myself singing The Beatles’ Get Back, in particular the line about California Grass.

I have a sneaking suspicion Sir Paul McCartney wasn’t talking about the school-approved GRASS method for problem solving. Nevertheless, I will conveniently pretend he was and use the GRASS method to try and figure out the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their fasciantion with the state of California.

Before listening to Californication, this is what I suspected would be the case:


Time for the GRASS method to see if my hypothesis is correct (and who says you never use this stuff in “real life”) 😀

G: Given
In 1999, The Red Hot Chili Peppers released the album Californication, produced by Rick Rubin.  It marked the return of ace guitarist John Frusciante and was commercially and critically successful.

R: Required
Based on the album title and Anthony Kiedis’s penchant for singing about his home state, do the lyrics actually contain any other words?

A: Application (what strategy will be used to solve the problem)
I will record the number of times the prefix “Californi-” is said/sung.  Next, I will prepare a properly labelled line graph using Excel.

S: Solution
Here are my results.


S: Statement
I was pleased to see Kiedis was capable of name-checking other geographic locations.  Although it seemed like California was referenced all the time, it turns out the state tends to feature prominently in the singles but not so much in the rest of the album tracks.

Confession: I like, but don’t love the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  At least not when listening to music by myself.

That being confessed, I still admire them more than perhaps any other active musicians.

– Frusciante’s guitar work is never flashy but always exactly appropriate.
– Flea’s bass prowess is well documented and his turn as Needles in Back to the Future II & III remains criminally underrated
– Kiedis has that instantly identifiable quality that I look for in a lead singer
– And let’s face it, Will Ferrell can really play those drums!

For whatever reason, that admiration doesn’t translate into craving the Chilis.

I’d probably put them in the same respect-but-don’t-really-listen-to-category as The White Stripes.

In fact, I’ll borrow a rating I used in one of my White Stripes reviews: I’d be thrilled to listen to any of these Californication tunes…if it came on in a friend’s car.

This album reminds me of driving in cars with friends towards the end of high school.  That sort of nostalgia rarely hurts an album’s case and this RHCP revisit was no exception.

From → 1990s

  1. I LOVE this album. We must be close in age, because this takes me back to the last year of high school as well. My all time favorite RHCP song is “Savior.” Not about Cali, I think it’s about his dad. Doesn’t hurt that I read Scar Tissue, which is Kiedis auto-bio.

    • I’m an ’81!
      A friend read Scar Tissue & quite liked it. I haven’t read any music bios yet this year, I may have to explore.
      Savior’s a good one – I was impressed with a few of the late album tracks (road trippin’ was another) that showed some versatility. The hits are obviously good ones but nice to hear some unfamiliar tracks. I think in high school we didn’t make it past I like dirt that often!

  2. Meg permalink

    HAHAHA You kill me GS! Love this review.

  3. ianbalentine permalink

    I’m with you on the Chilis and the Whte Stripes. Like, don’t love. When given a choice to sit down and listen to an album, or a band, I rarely choose the Peppers and never choose the Stripes. White’s “earthier/hipper/more ligitimate than thou” attitude has put me off anything he touches. I was a huge RHCP fan back in the late ’80’s early ’90’s, and bought Mother’s Milk CD off the rack when it was released, and at the time no one sounded like them (I wasn’t really aware of Funkadelic by that point…now I know the Chilis based their entire career on the Funkadelic song, “Loose Booty”…listen to it, it’s remarkable!). Their sound was co-opted by a thousand frat-boy funk/metal bands who ruined it for everyone. That, coupled with diminishing returns each album sent me off the rails. That said, By The Way is an excellent, thoughtful album, and the only one I still play.

    • Listening to loose booty as I type – that sounds like the foundation for sure!

      I don’t have BTW, liked what I heard, good to know it’s worthy of exploring.

      If I were to play one Chilis, it would likely be blood sugar, but it was my gateway and I guess I often gravitate back to those band introduction records!

    • Nice – I hope I don’t get in a fight too 🙂
      I always show the academic decathalon clip to introduce the topic of ‘business ethics’ stopping it of course before the guy loses it!

  4. I like this statement: “Confession: I like, but don’t love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At least not when listening to music by myself.” I agree, I’m like that too. Hearing on the radio at work is fun. I don’t play them at home.

    You mentioned Frusciante, I really loved his tone on this album. It’s very warm and natural, and just gorgeous.

    • Agreed – his backup vocals also add another layer that I think was missing on the Frusciante-less albums.

      I’m glad you mentioned guitar tones, I’ve found that’s something I’ve really started to appreciate more and more. I think that’s what really sold me on the Pretenders debut, the not quite clean/not quite distorted tones!

  5. I think this, and funky Blood Sugar Sex Magic, are great albums for both musical merit and nostalgic reasons! The newer albums are good for what I’ve heard, but they don’t necessarily distinguish themselves from the rest.

    • Then you’ll be pleased to hear blood sugar also made the list as well!
      There aren’t many sing-alongs as enjoyable as Under The Bridge

      • “Could have lied” is one of the most credible genuine love “ballads” (geez, I don’t like that word) for a rock and roll band.

      • hmm, slow songs? You’re right, fairly or unfairly, the word ballad definitely conjures the image of a grade 8 dance for me.
        Their slower tunes are among my favourites – soul to squeeze, breaking the girl, and I guess otherside’s more mid-tempo but it was my preference here

  6. I love the graphs! Nice article!

  7. I like the chart and I love the Red Hots—or at least -I used to love them much more—enough to go hunt down their first record because I just had to have “True men don’t kill coyotes” (which mentions the Hollywood hills, for another Golden State reference)—and when I say hunt down—this was before the internet and hunting down a coyote would have been easier than finding this record! — I have found them to be a band full of passion for their entire long run—–like U2 and like Neil Young—and I don’t think there’s a third band on this list.

    • That’s a good point – how many groups can say they’ve kept the intensity going for 30+ years, never phoning it in/resorting to treading water musically.

      I can’t think of a 3rd either!

  8. Brilliant! I own a couple of singles, but that’s as far as RHCP and I go.

    • My thanks! The singles are good indication of the group – if you like ’em, chances are you’ll like the majority of the rest of the record from which they came.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Clube de Esquina – Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges (1972) & American Music Club – California (1988) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. 1999 | 1001albumsin10years

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