Red Hot Chili Peppers Laugh In The Face of Adversity

Posted in MusicWorld on October 31, 1999 by

"The music on this record was written because these four people get off on making music with each other."
-press statement for the Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Californication.

They have survived the death of a founding member, numerous personnel changes and highly publicized struggles with addiction. Yet despite all the upheavals, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have retained the optimism and prankish humor that made them alternative rock legends. On their latest Warner Bros. Records album, Californication, the Chili Peppers exorcise their personal demons without stooping to cynicism or self-pity. In fact, the album opens with singer Anthony Kiedis declaring that "life is beautiful around the world."

Laughing in the face of adversity is standard procedure for the Chili Peppers. Unlike some of their alt-rock peers, the foursome never succumbed to fashionable moodiness. On hit albums like Mother's Milk, BloodSugarSexMagik and One Hot Minute, the band combines chest-thumping funk rhythms with r&b-inflected melodies and uproariously lusty lyrics. The Los Angeles quartet is also renowned for its camaraderie. In performances and interviews, founding members Kiedis and Flea (real name Michael Balzary) openly declare their love for one another and their bandmates. The band seems to delight in challenging staid, macho notions about masculinity.

But the band's controversial antics have never overshadowed their music. Bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith make up one of the most respected rhythm sections in modern rock. Recently, the band welcomed innovative guitarist John Frusciante back to the fold. Frusciante, who co-composed such Chili Peppers classics as "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge," left the band in 1992 at the height of their success. Some critics credit Frusciante with rekindling their creative fire.

Founded in Hollywood in the early '80s, the Chili Peppers immediately carved a niche by being the first rock band to combine edgy punk attitude with hardcore r&b rhythms. The band had released four critically acclaimed recordings when founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a drug overdose in 1988. Bowed but undaunted, the group recruited Frusciante and Smith and scaled the pop charts with their 1989 recording, Mother's Milk.

In the wake of Frusciante's 1992 departure, the band recorded their 1995 album, One Hot Minute, with former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. A four-year hiatus ensued, but fans attending the 1999 Woodstock Festival in Rome, New York discovered the foursome had lost none of their raucous appeal. During the band's frenzied performance, concertgoers ignited bonfires and toppled scaffolding. The story made headlines worldwide and added further fuel to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' hellraising mystique.


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