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CD Review: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium

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Back in the 70’s, the music scene was infamous for the double-album. The self-indulgent result from overly-productive bands, many times resulting in epic crap.

It’s seems that history repeats itself; first the Foo Fighters and now the Red Hot Chili Peppers are doing the double-album dance. Unlike the albums of the seventies and sadly the Foo Fighters; the Chili Peppers pull it off (for the most part.)

Stadium Arcadium is the name and “bringing back the funk” is the game; or at least that is what the Chili Peppers claim. The album is spread out on to two discs “Jupiter” and “Mars”, and even though they are named after planets. There is no space theme, in fact, there is no theme at all.

The album kick starts itself with the first track (and hit single) “Dani California.” It is a feel good song that has a “southern” rock vibe which is climaxed by guitarist John Frusciante’s trademark solo.

Then, “Snow (Hey Oh)” hits, and the listener is brought into full By The Way mode. It’s a good, but safe mid-tempo song that could have been better. Next up, we have “Charlie.” The first “funk” song on this record, though instead of sounding like “old-school” Chili Peppers, it sounds more like 70’s P-funk (which- isn’t a bad thing.)

After being teased with a little funk, the album mellows out again with the beautiful but melancholy title track. It then hits the funk gear again with “Hump de Bump.” This track oozes vintage-Chili Peppers, from the nonsensical lyrics “Hump de bump doop bodu”, to Flea’s rapid bass- slapping, Chad’s no bullshit drumming, and the percussive bridge. This song conjures up the soul of their album Freaky Styley.

After the fun and funk of “Hump de Bump,” we get the bizarre “She’s only 18.” The song starts out sounding like it came straight out of Blood Sugar Sex Magick. It does take a strange alt-metal sound with the chorus, which sounds a little out of place. The album then again mellows out with “Slow Cheetah”, only to speed back up with the Joy-Divisionesque “Torture Me”, only to mellow back out for “Strip My Mind” and “Especially In Michigan.”

“Warlocks” brings back the funk, though strangely comes off pretty casual and not as energetic as say “Hump de Bump.” The first disc then ends on a very mellow note with “C’mon Girl,” “Wet Sand,” and ”Hey.” “Wet Sand” is the standout with a very Hendrixesque sound.

After the first disc held (though not as funky as I hoped), the second starts off even stronger. It starts with the epic ballad “Desecration Smile.” It then goes into the funky “Tell Me Baby,” with a killer verse and an even better chorus; which has a sound that’s mildly reminiscent of New wave bands like New Order.

The song “Hard to Concentrate” slows things down a little. With lyrics that are essentially a marriage proposal. (Singer, Anthony Kiedis, wrote them for Flea when he asked his girlfriend to marry him.), and some unique guitar lines that make this song very memorable.

Unfortunately the next two tracks, “21st Century” and “She Looks To Me,” aren’t as memorable. Then things are kicked into high-gear with the hard-rock gem “Readymade.” The intro and verse sound very similar to Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song”, but the chorus, screaming-guitar- solo and bridge make up for that.

The next tracks “If,” “Make You Feel Better,” “Animal Bar,” and “So Much I” all blend together with interchangeable verses, though the choruses on each song stand out to some degree. Then, out of nowhere, the Peppers bring back the nostalgia with “Storm In A Teacup”. Which sounds like it could be a lost recording from the One Hot Minute era.

Unfortunately, the following two tracks “We Believe” and “Turn It Again” suffer from the interchangeable verse problem. Then there is the final track “Death Of A Martian”; while the lyrics are touching (It’s about Anthony Kiedis’ dog who died.); it is the weakest track on the whole record. Not the best note to end on.

The biggest weakness with this album is it’s horribly disorganized. There is no continuity from track to track. Instead of separating the up-beat tracks from the ballads onto separate discs they’re all jumbled together. which dramatically takes away from the listening experience.

The other major weakness with the album is the filler. While there are no bad tracks, some tracks just don’t really stand out on their own. The best tracks on this album are amazing and when compared to the lesser ones, it really hurts the quality of the entire album. The Peppers really should of cut an addition five songs from this album (originally there were 36 songs.). If there were only 22 or 23 tracks, it would have evened it out.

Despite the negative aspects, there are many things to praise about this album. The arrangements and layers of sound that guitarist John Frusciante came up with for this album are amazing. He is truly a genius and the center of the Peppers creative force. Without him they would still be four guys with socks on their cocks.

Songs like “Dani California” and “Stadium Arcadium” are this albums greatest strengths. When Stadium Arcadium is at its best, it’s breathtaking. When it’s at its worst, it’s still good. Despite its flaws it’s still a great album and when you compare it to the utter shit that is out now (like Fallout Boy or Greenday) this album is a masterpiece.

If you don’t have any Chili Pepper albums this is the album to buy. It is in a way a musical history of the band, and even though it has serious flaws I have no doubt that this album will one day become a classic.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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About Ryan Webster

  • Julie Small

    First of all, it’s Dani with one n, not two, in Dani California and, even though the music is upbeat, I wouldn’t call it a feel good song. It’s about the death of the girl Dani, who also appeared in By The Way and Californication. Second, RHCP originally had 38 songs not 36. And third, it’s a great CD. How can you write a review if you don’t even know all the facts?

    Also, the Foo Fighters In Your Honor is a masterpiece! Dave Grohl is a lyrical genius and the music is amazing!

    So many reviewers of In Your Honor said that they shouldn’t have split the rock and accoustic into two separate CDs. It should have been blended. Now you say RHCP should have separated the upbeat songs from the ballads. Will you reviewers ever make up your minds?

    Thank you,
    Julie

  • http://poetlost.wordpress.com/ Theena

    I agree with the jist of your review, but I’d give a lower rating; personal opinion I suppose.

    The first CD was honestly very good. Although not jaw dropping – but hey this is the Chilli Peppers; they don’t do jaw dropping – I can honestly say that all 14 songs have the potential to be a hit. While that may not mean much in this day and age, all these tunes stand out more than most of the top 40 crap that we hear on radio. My personal favourites were ‘Charlie’ and ‘Slow Cheetah’.

    The second CD stands at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Most of the tunes are forgettable and just filler-quality. ‘Hard to concentrate’ is the standout track here.

    In a couple of weeks if I find myself listening to this album again, it will be because of John’s guitar work. Outstanding as usual from him.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    “How can you write a review if you don’t even know all the facts?”

    He basically has all he needs. In order to write a review, all you really need is the album, something to play it with, a set of ears, and a desire to write about it. You don’t necessarily need to know how many songs there were originally, or if a character in a song has been on other albums. Knowing that can be interesting, but when it comes down to reviewing this album, it is filler.

    “Also, the Foo Fighters In Your Honor is a masterpiece! Dave Grohl is a lyrical genius and the music is amazing!”
    Haven’t listened to this, but I lost interest in the Foo many moons ago.

    “Will you reviewers ever make up your minds?”
    He did make up his mind and stated as such, or would you rather have all critics spout of the same stuff?

    In the end, good review. I have this set, but have not yet had the opportunity to give it a listen.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I appreciate the honesty of this review as I cannot claim the album to be their best and Ryan’s review of the tracks individually is fairly accurate but I also agree with Theena that RHCP doesn’t create jaw dropping music so I can’t bash the album completely.

    I think it’s a fun album with integrity to who RHCP is but it’s not where I would start if I didn’t own a single album of theirs.(Try BSSM) I wouldn’t have compared it to Fallout Boy or Greenday because both those bands as a whole have never released anything to talk about even respectively to their own genres and commenting about today’s commercial garbage is as easy as bashing Rolling Stone magazine for being an infomercial on paper.The point is moot…

    All in All, I think they could’ve made a single release which would have been a more powerful statement.

  • danny

    i think the cd is great and the review was good its true some of the songs arent the most amazing but they are good and all these songs have heart. Ive heard many cd’s and if were talking about music from now and days this album is the best ive heard, rhcp is one of the only bands that are real band none of this emmo crap thats going around these days i think we should be greatfull that they are still making music and great music at that so to me this is the best albulm this year ofcouse people these days wouldnt know that. also it wasent anthonys dog it was fleas just thought id let u know.

  • Ryan

    Julie,

    Despite the lyrics, “Dani California” is an up-beat song. Sorry.

  • Julie

    Ryan,

    I said “Dani California” is upbeat, but I wouldn’t say it’s “feel good” unless you feel good about someone dying.

  • Julie

    Chris,

    Apparently his CD player or his ears weren’t working well. And if that stuff is just filler then he should have left it out since he had it wrong.

    I’m sorry you lost interest in the Foo Fighters. Your loss!

    Reviewers usually do spout the same stuff. And they usually don’t know what they’re talking about.

    And if you haven’t listened to “Stadium Arcadium” yet how do you know the review is good? I have listened to it and music is great!

  • Ryan

    First off, Julie, yes the character dies in the song, but…Anthony also stated in an interveiw it’s also a metaphor for how “the culture of California is dying.” Regardless of the negative(or sad) lyrics it’s a very sunny song, I stand by what I said.

    Second off, what is wrong, your making it like I bashed the album. Look at my rating, 8 out 10. I though it was an awsome album, there were no ”bad” songs. It’s just the really great songs make the lesser songs like, let’s say, “Make you feel better” seem a little bland. And, it’s still a good song, very catchy chorus, it just dosen’t have the ”soul” or impact as the better songs.

    Third off, I do know what I’m talking about, considering The Peppers are my favorite band, regardless I stand by everything I said except for the 36 songs(my bad 38), and as far as I can tell I put “Dani” w/ one “N”.

    P.s. It’s a damn album reveiw, everyone should chill out over it. I’d hate to see how some of you would react over a pollitical piece.

  • http://none Jig

    Some have said that condensing the album to one cd would have made more of an impact and statement. Personally I would rather have more songs and forgoe impact or statement. I wish it was three cd’s with all 38. Impact and statement be damned, I want content.

  • Chip

    What is the meaning and story behind Charlie?

  • Sledge

    This album is awesome. I agree that there are 5 or 6 tracks that don’t hold their own. That leaves 22 others! There are no flat out bad songs. I think that this is the best thing that RHCP has ever done. To me, it is inspiring. As far as I’m concerned the album is a classic already. Many thanks to the Chili Peppers for the gem.

  • http://TerryW Terry w

    I bought the albumn knowing I was going to like it – Can’t remember a more consistant , Musicaly talented ,Original Band that’s got a sixties/seventees atmosphere put out more Beautiful music as these guys do.
    Rick Rubin is an incredible producer – giving them (in my mind) Beatleesk type of arrangement – What an Incredible Albumn – From one of the greatest bands of our time.

  • http://TerryW Terry W

    10 out of 10.

  • Ryan

    Long live the Peppers

  • scott j

    Peppers – Awesome. This is one double cd you have to listen to with headphones to hear all the great background sounds you will probably miss through regular speakers – just a thought. This is a masterpiece as is the accoustic CD from the foo fighters. I cannot quit listening to the new chili peppers CDs as it is a breath of fresh air with all the crap out there lately. I will see them front row in saint paul come this november. Cheers.

  • John

    You said in your review that “21st Century” and “She Looks To Me” aren’t memorable. Are you serious? Those songs are awesome, as is the whole album.

  • John

    What the fuck are you talking about?

    The chili peppers certainly Do do “jaw dropping”.

    The musical talent and passion that these guys have is absoloutely phenomenal and it shows very clearly on this album.

    In my opinion this is their best to date.

    Also, the author of the review clearly does not know what he is talking about, as Turn it again and Death of a Martian are possibly the BEST songs on the record. There are no interchangeable choruses.

  • david Jones

    This album is faaaaannnntassstic!! I personally think criticisms should be divided into “initial listen”, and “after many listens”…because so many fantastic elements remain elusive until the songs become internalized. I am currently enamoured with “Charlie”. Does anyone know what or who this is about?

  • Benno

    Hi everyone!
    21st Century is a solid track, love flea’s dominate bass attack. Expecially in Michigan is a stand out. Charlie is awesome so many good things about this twin set album, so much to offer, critics listen with intent to funnily enough to critise, I recommend an honest reviewing without looking for assumed failings to appear intelligent, I feel the last few albums have had a handful of good tracks, but this one hits a chord with me and my friends. It hasn’t been out of the player in months. Bloody JAW DROPPING!

  • Mandy

    I think “Charlie” is about an inner voice or imaginary friend almost.
    My favorite song on this album has to be “Turn It Again”. I think the Peppers did some great work, I love all the different dynamics of the album, and love hearing so much of John. I can hear lots of different musical influences in many of the songs, but this is purely Chili Peppers.

  • Sam

    With regards to the person who said that criticisms should be qualified as before/after repeated listenings: I agree 100%. I’m a huge RHCP fan, the music has meant a great deal to me over the past few years and I follow what they do with great interest, but my current appreciation level (super high) for this album was only reached after certain tracks were given fair air time between my ears.

    I’m firmly of the opinion that Stadium Arcadium will go down as a classic, in years to come.

    Lots of love to all the fellow listeners out there.

    -S

  • Al

    I really like this CD overall. “Charlie” is a standout for me-funky, with interesting guitarwork and harmonies. Other favorites are Snow and Dani California.

    I have to make one comment: the reviewer claims to be an English major but uses some of the worst grammar and sentence construction I’ve ever seen. (“Should of” instead of “Should have”?) If you want to be taken seriously as a published writer, you really have to learn to write well. As an English major I’m sure your skills will improve, but what is stopping you from going back over your article and correcting the errors?

  • Davey

    I bet none of you like the Peppers more than me. Do you guys even no all there names, like what is Flea’s real name?

  • Davey

    I just love Anthony Keidi’s voice. Especially Snow(Hey oh)

  • kayla

    i bet you dont know more than me…and..theres anthony kiedis, flea, john frusciante and chad smith…and fleas real name is michael balzary…OHHHH!!!!you just got owned!

  • rickjames_bitch

    Dear Davey,
    I suggest you learn how to spell before calling out others whom you think know less than you about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
    I guarantee, I know more about them than you, but unlike you, I feel no need to prove it to others with juvenile remarks. I’m satisfied with the knowledge that I know a lot more than most people about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
    Flea’s real name, is common knowledge among most people who have even ever heard of RHCP, so the fact that anyone knows his real name is fairly unimpressive to me.
    Tell me something that I don’t know.

  • rickjames_bitch

    Hey Ryan,
    I respect your opinion of the album, but have to sorely disagree with you on a few aspects of your review. First of all, you say that there are no “bad songs” on the album…I beg to differ, I think the one you failed to mention, maybe because it is that forgettable is “If”. And I don’t think that seperating the ballads from the upbeat tunes would have made the listening experience any better. Worse, in fact…then they should have called the albums the Moon and the Sun, might I suggest, for the endless ballad side leading me into a deep slumber….you gotta mix it up a bit. I also don’t think that “Charlie” (which is about one’s imagination-to whoever asked) sounds anything like P-Funk, nor do I think “Stadium Arcadium” the song, is “melancholy”. Just listen to the lyrics, this song is all about love, man. You also opine that Dani C and SA are “this albums greatest strengths”, yes, if by “greatest strengths” you mean, most apt to do well in the commercial market (or most “pop”ish, if you will). “Death of a Martian” is about Flea’s dog, who died. Not Anthony’s. But, this isn’t meant to be a lesson in the musings behind each song, just my opinion on your review. Also, if you had heard any of the songs that were cut, you would wish that they were a part of this album. But then again, you may not. I think the unreleased stuff is also pure genius, and wish that it had been released in it’s entirety. Maybe someday.

  • http://kandykisses2010 Cheyenne

    Hey I think The Red Hot Chili Peppers rock hard and they kick ass!!! I love Anthony!!!!

  • http://kandykisses2010 Cheyenne

    Will you marry me?

  • someone

    i love this album so much it isn’t funny- i personally love death of a martian it might even be my favorite track, but the songs are so varied its hard to tell- i think the peppers made the right decision in mixing up the songs, it keeps the listener entertained rather than changing the song constantly- i love this band so much and i can’t wait for their next album!

  • me

    has nobody been wondering what the 38th track was? i remember waiting for each single to come out to buy it n gather up all the tracks but theres only 37 (not including the live jams and stuff)…