The Kickback Redux: The bubblegum pop ’90s
Kelly McGarry | Tuesday, November 17, 2015
The millennial perception of the ’90s is distorted by our own immaturity at the time, we forget that not everyone was listening to the Backstreet Boys. The teen pop trends that we associate with the decade didn’t stop monumental rock and alternative albums from bands like Radiohead, U2 and Nirvana.
With their current presence so strong, most of us also forget that the ’90s was the peak for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hugely influential albums “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” “One Hot Minute” and “Californication” were all released in the 90s, the middle of these being one of the most underappreciated albums of all time.
As Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead singer Anthony Kiedis described in his autobiography “Scar Tissue,” the production of funk-punk album “One Hot Minute” was set back by personal problems among band-members. Through drug addiction, death, and depression, the quote from “Mulan,” (another ’90s classic) applies to this album: “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all.” One of the biggest challenges was the absence of guitarist John Frusciante, whose writing contributions had been crucial to “Blood Sugar Sex Magik.”
Frusciante was replaced by Dave Navarro, founding member of Jane’s Addiction, who influenced a darker tone in “One Hot Minute.” Metal riffs characterized hard-hitting tracks like “One Big Mob,” but the classic RHCP sound was far from lost. The full, even crowded sound gives meaning to Kieidis’ metaphysical yet flippant musings with lines like “One two buckle my shoe / take care of me ‘cause I might be you.”
The bass-slapping funk influence via Flea comes out in “Walkabout” and “Aeroplane,” but there’s not such a clear divide between the metal and the funk on this album. Take “Coffee Shop,” which opens heavy metal but progresses to one of the album’s funkiest riffs, and demonstrates each member’s style being amplified and complemented by the other.
Flea’s influence takes on a different role in his lyrics and vocals in “Deepkick,” and even more notably in the quirky yet expressive track “Pea.” The decision to include “Pea” on the album is an interesting one, as it has the feel of something Flea spontaneously played during one of the band’s jam sessions, and I would definitely ask him about it if I got the chance.
Even without the melodic influence of Frusciante, RHCP even pulled off a few smooth ballads in “My Friends” and “Tearjearker,” dispersed evenly within the album’s track listing, injecting the pain and loss of the band’s experience during the album’s production.
With such variety and expressivity, “One Hot Minute” is arguably one of RHCP’s most exciting albums. Twenty years after its release, I fondly remember “One Hot Minute” as the only worthy music I appreciated for at least the first ten years of my life.