How Red Hot Chili Peppers Got Back on Track with ‘Californication’
Red Hot Chili Peppers turned the corner on 1999’s ‘Californication,’ their seventh album and return to form after 1995’s disastrous ‘One Hot Minute.’ With guitarist Dave Navarro – who had no business being in the Chili Peppers and spent his brief tenure with the band seemingly playing songs no one else in the group was hearing – gone, and John Frusciante back, the Peppers eased into their most complex and grown-up record.
And in a way, ‘Californication’ is their most rewarding album. We still give top honors to ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik,’ but that 1991 breakthrough LP isn’t totally focused. ‘Californication’ is, and it zeroes in on music that replaces the usual white-boy funk goofs with honest-to-goodness songs that reflect the group’s growing professionalism and responsibility. They still may have been aging frat boys at heart, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers do a great job of showing some respectability on ‘Californication.’
Working with producer Rick Rubin for the third time, the band quickly finds its groove. They make a solid team, flexing muscle on songs like the hard ‘Around the World’ and the soft ‘Road Trippin’’ and going deep on ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Otherside,’ two of the album’s six singles. Singer Anthony Kiedis’ sobriety and Frusciante’s return after sitting out ‘One Hot Minute’ certainly have much to do with record’s clean, uncluttered sound. And the fact that they were exploring various song structures instead of just letting jams unfurl helped plenty.
‘Californication’ debuted at No. 3 and went on to become the band’s second bestselling album, moving more than six million copies. Three of its songs – ‘Scar Tissue,’ ‘Otherside’ and the title track – topped the modern-rock chart; ‘Scar Tissue’ even went Top 10 pop. The album pretty much set the template for the next few Red Hot Chili Peppers albums: kinda serious, super melodic and multifaceted to the point where you almost forget their one-note roots. It also shifted the band into a richer, sturdier and all-around greater stage of its career.
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