Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
Release Date: May 9, 2006
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records
When Rick Rubin signed on to produce the 28-track behemoth that the Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to dub Stadium Arcadium, that was the first clue that this CD would be either a mega-success or a barely-remembered flop. With Rubin, there is rarely an in-between album. Since the band’s last album, By The Way, they have grown self-indulgent while still staying fairly true to their roots. On Stadium Arcadium, you’ll find a mix of ballads, pop, and the funkalicious music that Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Flea, and Chad Smith have made their trademark over the years. Prepare yourself for a riveting, roller-coaster ride of music unlike anything you have experienced in recent memory.
Disc 1 of the album is the stronger of the two, with the majority of catchy, upbeat tracks as well as the strongest ballads. Apart from the funk-rocking lead single (“Dani California”), it features the enchanting title track, and the twin killing of “Hump De Bump” and “She’s Only 18.” “Torture Me” is one of my favorites. Leading off with a coursing bassline from Flea, this song hits hard and fast with a unique take on the music. Normal bands would turn “Torture Me” into a straightforward rock song, but the depth and versatility of the Chili Peppers turns it into a shape-shifting ball of music. One of the gems of the disc titled Jupiter is “Especially in Michigan,” a slower-paced song that features a fantastic guitar solo from special guest Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, of At The Drive In and The Mars Volta fame. Not to be outdone by the album’s newcomer, Flea guides the funk-driven “Warlocks” that follows with his raw basslines that are well accentuated by Frusciante. What is so great about this track is its depth. Rather than an upbeat, oddball track, it varies between a soothing ballad and some rap-rock broken up by a wailing guitar solo for good measure.
Titled Mars, Disc 2 of Stadium Arcadium is, in this reviewer’s opinion, a bit weaker. “Desecration Smile” is a five-minute snoozer courtesy of Anthony Kiedis, which does not bode well for the disc. Not quite space-rock, but it is a bit more ethereal than anything previously seen on Stadium Arcadium. “Tell Me Baby” picks up the pace a bit with a sparse track instrumentally that allows Kiedis to return to that rap-rock with which his fans have a love-hate relationship. He sings a majority of the song, but it is still not one of the best offerings from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Hard To Concentrate” is one of those lovable tracks that might just have lyrics acquired from Rhymer.com. There is little instrument work to highlight it, save for a guitar solo or two that do not do anything exciting; but on the other hand, it is tough to hate it outright. Both “21st Century” and “Readymade” are exciting tracks that give Mars the kick it deserves. Both open with a growling bass intro, with the former going much more into the realm of funk and the latter showing single potential as a rock-radio hit. To be frank, “If” falls flat on its face. It is noticeably the weakest song out of the 28, wandering and winding to a conclusion about two minutes and fifty-seconds too long. Meager instrument work and boring vocals make “If” completely forgettable, in my eyes. “Make You Feel Better” has a pop-rock style that I find reminiscent of The Beatles, both thematically and musically. I think John, Paul, George, and Ringo would be proud. The rest of the disc has its moments, but it never really blows you away again until “Storm In Your Teacup.” The instrumentals’ layering is excellent although occasionally the lyrics are corny as hell. The Chili Peppers may never shake the idea that about half of their songs are about getting laid, and “Storm In A Teacup” does not do anything to dispel that conception. That said, the song alternates from hard rock to something that anyone can bounce along to, making it a solid anchor for Mars.
What sets this new offering from the Red Hot Chili Peppers apart from the rest of their discography? Die-hard fans will fawn over this release, and in the grand scheme of things, it includes some of their most memorable songs ever. More casual fans who complained that RHCP albums stood on the strength of their singles will be placated somewhat, although many may be turned away by the surreal runtime of Stadium Arcadium (about 122 minutes).
So far, Stadium Arcadium is among my top five albums in 2006 and is poised to remain there for the duration. It might not receive the highest score of anything I review this year, but it is without a doubt the album I will be spinning long after “Dani California” fades into rock radio oblivion. Anthony Kiedis’ vocals have taken a major step up, and even the lyrics are solid compared to the half-baked raps he threw in some of their previous work. The production is a bit spotty at times, but is solid, as we expect from Rick Rubin. As always, the stalwart combination of John Frusciante and Flea, on guitar and bass respectively, is a force to be reckoned with. You will be hard-pressed to find a band with a better guitar/bass combination released on an album this year, and they rank among the best of the best in rock ‘n roll history for good reason. If you buy one album in 2006, Stadium Arcadium should be that one as the Red Hot Chili Peppers have outdone themselves with this expansive, career-defining release.
Awesome review, this album is pretty much all I have been listening to and dare I say it, has been helping me through a lot the past day or two. Best album I've heard all year so far, I can't wait to listen to the Damiera album since you gave that an even better score (I know it's available for streaming here, but I'd rather wait til my preorder comes!).