Recordings

Red Hot Chili Peppers
One Hot Minute(Warner Bros.)
The serrano boys have peeled the tube socks off their dicks and pulled on their thinking caps for this fire dance of an album--easily the band's best since it put funk/punk on the map in 1985 with Freaky Styley.

Four years back, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' triple-platinum phenom Blood Sugar Sex Magik served notice that the brash Southern California foursome was maturing. With its desperately honest take on loss and isolation, the single "Under the Bridge" dove to emotional depths the Chilis had previously not cared--or perhaps dared--to explore.

Now, on One Hot Minute, the Red Hots sound like a band that has fully come into its own. Only time will tell if this album represents the pinnacle of the group's evolution or simply the first effort from a higher plane. In either case, it is a masterpiece of mainstream modern rock.

At turns ferocious and meditative, exotic and down-home, One Hot Minute is a powerful celebration of--for lack of a more precise term--life on Earth.

For example, "One Big Mob" rages with the same atonal, shout-chorus fury as the Grammy-winning Red Hot number "Give It Away." But check the change in lyrical content: The rutting call of "Give it away, give it away, give it away now" has given way to a humanistic plea for global unity. "I am you are me," howls vocalist Anthony Kiedis, over and over, "One big mob in one big home."

Granted, One Hot Minute wouldn't be a bona fide Chili Peppers album if it didn't boast at least one ode to sweaty, screamy, claw-the-sheets sex. Thankfully, the male-as-dominator subtext that soured so many of the Peppers' previous attempts at rock 'n' roll erotica is nowhere to be found on "Coffeeshop." Instead, we get white-hot lyrics about two lovers hopped up on lust, caffeine and philosophic discourse who try to find out how many positions of the Kamasutra are achievable in an automobile.

Complementing that steamy scenario is a heavy, finely honed guitar/vocals hook that pulls you into the chorus like a primal urge. Resistance is futile.

Let's hope the revolving-door succession of Chili Pepper guitarists--which started in 1988 after the drug-overdose death of original band member Hillel Slovak--has finally come to a halt with the addition of former Jane's Addiction axman Dave Navarro. Navarro is a perfect fit. He not only smoothly assimilates to the band's natural sound--a motley stew of punk, funk and fusion that alternately bounces and slams--he broadens it with his penchant for bone-crushing power chords and lead lines that soar and attack like a heavy-metal bird of prey.

One Hot Minute is one of those rare beauties that lacks an obvious weak link. None of the songs on this album suck. One complaint: Kiedis' spoken-word intro to "Deep Kick" sounds like the LSD-induced, pseudo-spiritual ramblings of a high school hippie: "Love and music can save us and did while the giant gray monster grew more poisoned and volatile around us."

Pretty out there, dude.
The vocalist is more convincing on "Walkabout," a compound of One Hot Minute's finest elements--humanism, grit and exquisite musicianship.

"I want to go on a walkabout, and find out what's it all about," he speak-sings over a trancey groove that soon evaporates in a bomb-drop fusion break. "In the heat, I've got myself to meet." Don't we all.--David Holthouse

Various artists
500 Miles to Glory(Gearhead/Red Devil)
Like to gap your sparkplugs while crankin' superfueled punk tunes? Thanks to the good guys at Gearhead Magazine, now you can.

The brain child of former Maximum Rock-'n'-Roll writer Michael LaVella, Gearhead daringly probes the similarities between punk music and drag racing. One recent issue highlighted everything from souped-up motors to big-band barfly Sam Butera--and, of course, all the excellent punk outfits on this CD.

Embedded among excerpts of circa-1955 racetrack announcing are previously unreleased tracks (no pun intended) from the Supersuckers and the New Bomb Turks. The Dwarves' twisted singer Blag Dahlia is reincarnated in pure form on "The Crucifixion Is Now." Teengenerate, a spazzy garage band from Japan, speeds through a cover of "My GTO" in just over a minute, and Tucson's the Fells manage to sound inspired while chanting "gooba-gooba-gooba-gooba" on their cover of "Don't You Just Know It."

As any trip to a used-CD store will reveal, there is a surplus of compilation albums on the market. It seems like everyone and his pet monkey has put one out lately, and most of them lack the sort of cohesive theme that keeps 500 Miles to Glory running smoothly. Soaked with high-octane attitude and perfectly chosen sound bites, this disc gets the checkered flag.--Scott Blair

The Guess Who
Lonely One
(Interscope)

Bad Company
Company of Strangers
(EastWest)

When was the last time you heard a rock enthusiast utter this accolade? "Wow, what an awesome rhythm section the Guess Who had! I wish to God they'd reunite to play soft rock like Mike and the Mechanics!" Probably never. Yet the Guess Who's invisible rhythm section--fronted by some new faceless faces--is all you get on this sham of a reunion album.

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