Before I start this review, I’m just going to put it out there – I hate double albums. Well, most double albums anyway. Double albums always seem like a bloated attempt by some band to further increase their egos; “Look what WE did!”… and after a while of listening, it can get to be a bit too much.
The new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Stadium Arcadium can seem just a bit too much. Maybe it was because I listened to both discs through and through without any breaks. Regardless of this fact, I noticed something whilst listening; I began to feel like I was in some sort of coma. I was pulled into the world of Stadium Arcadium for those two hours and when the album was over, I still felt as though I was in that world.
Of course, a review can’t really be a review if it’s all positive, right? We here on planet Earth like to play Negative Nancy occasionally and nitpick the faults. So here it is: Stadium Arcadium is too much. It’s RHCP overload. Don’t get me wrong, Stadium Arcadium is a brilliant album but it shouldn’t have to span two discs and two hours to make that point.
Let’s get to the things that make this album brilliant. The funk is back! Stadium Arcadium serves up the funk that was missing in 2002’s By The Way. There’s “Hump De Bump” with it’s Freaky Styley opening to it’s awesome jazzy percussion, “She’s Only 18” spilling the sex appeal that was found on Mother’s Milk and “Storm in a Teacup” which believe it or not, sounds like it would have been at home on 1995’s One Hot Minute.
Stadium Arcadium is not as heavy as say, BloodSugarSexMagik. However, there is one track that injects the hair swinging rock that fans are going to love – “Readymade”. With an awesome guitar solo by John Frusciante and pounding drums by Chad Smith, this song would be one of the highlights if ever played in concert.
Front man Anthony Kiedis stated that he would most like to sing with John Frusciante out of anyone in music history and in this album, you can see why. Their voices greatly compliment each other. When Kiedis is singing, Frusciante is heard in the background with his trademark high vocals or doo woop influenced singing. Their collaboration is on show in such tracks as the swirling rock of “Turn It Again”, the slow funk of “Charlie” and the much calmer “Hey.”
Did anyone ever think the same man we saw sing a dangerously off-key take of “Soul to Squeeze” in the 1991 documentary Funky Monks would be singing beautifully in 2006? Stadium Arcadium sees Kiedis reach a new high with his ever-improving vocals. I thought it was impossible for a 43 year old to improve after a 20-year career but obviously not. Kiedis has the ability to send shivers up your spine with the By The Way influenced songs such as "Wet Sand" and "Slow Cheetah".
John Frusciante probably hates being called a genius, but who cares? He’s not going to read this anyway. So here it is: John Frusciante is a genius. Since returning to the band in 1998 after leaving in 1992, he has greatly affected the band’s writing process and influenced their sound. Starting with Californication, Frusciante has aided in a revolution of the band’s sound and continues to do so here. His Hendrix style guitar adds a vintage rock feel to the album. “Wet Sand” is reminiscent of the opening of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and the solo of “Dani California ” has Hendrix written all over it. His beautiful layering creates another dimension to the album, therefore creating a real Stadium Arcadium.
Flea is a student of punk music in the opening of “Torture Me” sounding like a Gang of Four track. He mixes it up on this album, playing the funky slap bass on tracks like "21st Century", to the quiet bass we heard on By The Way in "Especially in Michigan ”. Who could forget drummer Chad Smith? Smith’s light drumming on "Hard to Concentrate" compliments the song and Kiedis’ heartfelt vocals. However, it’s "Readymade" where he stands out – Smith will enjoy belting it out live.
Let’s keep the Negative Nancy role to a minimum here but I would have loved to see the funk songs outweigh the By The Way influenced tracks then the other way around. They say the funk is back, but not as much as I thought it was going to be. However, it’s a vast improvement from the previous album where it seemed to disappear all together.
The band stick to what they know here, which is not a bad thing. Stadium Arcadium displays all the styles of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Its The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Freaky Styley, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, Mother’s Milk, BloodSugarSexMagik, One Hot Minute, Californication and By The Way rolled all in one. After 23 years, who says you need to experiment with every new album? Do they continue to pump out brilliant music? You can bet your ass they do.