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
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
Company of Strangers
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.
Without guitarist Randy Bachman and singer Burton Cummings, there's nothing here to indicate this is the same band that did "These Eyes" and "No Time." These losers could've reunited as Ambrosia for all the difference it makes.
The most bile-baiting among several truly awful songs is the preposterous closing track, "Rock N' Roll Classic," which culls its clich-riddled lyrics from dozens of old rock war-horses ("She'll do the sea cruise in her blue suede shoes"; "She went down to the crossroads the day the music died . . ." You get the idea). "Classic" even alludes to GW's lone No. 1 hit, "American Woman." To paraphrase a line from that 25-year-old tune, I wish the reconstructed Guess Who would stay away from mee-hee!
You'll average more familiar faces in this next company of strangers--two original Bad Company alumni and the bassist from Foreigner. Even though Mick Ralphs' idea of being adventurous was leaving a cool band like Mott the Hoople to play in a revamped version of Free, give him credit for finding the finest Paul Rodgers clone since Lou Gramm. Singer Robert Hart invokes the young fire of Bad Co.'s original white soul stud, especially on the title track, which recounts prison life without going into too much detail about being sodomized by a guy named Big Felicia.
Only a fool would expect searing originality with song titles like "Dance With the Devil" and "Pretty Woman," but then it's the sheer predictability factor that kept people coming back to Bad Company for years. And the band is just as conservative here as it was in 1974. Purists might pooh-pooh that this veteran act should never have carried on without Rodgers, but just recalling a few bars of the Firm's "Radioactive" should dispel that notion in record time.--Serene Dominic
Bad Company is scheduled to perform on Saturday, October 21, at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum. Showtime is 7 p.m.
The Chemical Brothers
Exit Planet Dust
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As the Dust Brothers, British spin docs Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons honed their reputation as mix masters of the trip-hop underworld. Recognized for their inflamed beats and outlandish samples, the Brothers had prominent artists such as Manic Street Preachers and Justin Warfield eagerly queuing up for a remix treatment.
Exit Planet Dust finds the newly renamed Chemical Brothers grafting their choicest samples onto 11 original compositions. The result is an intensely danceable disc that embraces the restless spirit of the Brothers' early days, when they were merely a pair of deejays pumping out strains of trip-hop, rock and acid house in smoky, strobe-lighted London clubs. While many post-techno lemming deejays stagnate in pools of ambient muck, the Chemical Brothers continue to mix music from the heart--not the test tube.
Stacking sound bites of sirens, wailing women and dub-bass grooves, Rowlands and Simons do their best work on "Leave Home." Other standout tracks include the wah-wah-infested "Chemical Beats" (initially released on the 1994 EP Fourteenth Century Sky), and the sledgehammer single "Fuck Up Beats," guaranteed to clear your head like a hot mustard rush.--Leigh Silverman