Unlimited Love

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner, 2022


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


And things stay the same, now and always.

Every six years or so, the Red Hot Chili Peppers release an album. People find a couple decent songs on it, inevitably compare it to the band’s ’90s heyday, then forget about it and move on with their lives. Rinse and repeat. I think this band has said what it needs to say, and Unlimited Love is proof of that.

The headline is that John Frusciante is back on guitar after stepping aside in 2006 to pursue his own avant-garde; Josh Klinghoffer is now touring with Pearl Jam. That’s great for longtime fans. The problem, though, is that any progress and diversity in the band’s sporadic songwriting has been erased; the bulk of this new album sounds like outtakes from 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, a double album that had its fair share of filler to begin with.

That’s not to say this is a bad album, but it is surely an expected one. Just about every song is a casual, laid-back, midtempo track, with few chances taken and very little to say. Anthony Kiedis also opts to rap more than he has in a while—which nobody asked him to do—and it’s as embarrassing as you’d expect a 59-year-old white guy with hearing loss rapping about sex to be.

Worse, the lyrics (whether rapped or sung) are generally about the same old stuff. There are many allusions to all kinds of sex, whether Kiedis is asking for it, begging for it, bragging about it, offering it, etc. There are of course multiple references to California; I don’t know if anyone knows this, but that’s where the band formed. There are a lot of references to an unnamed “she,” which could be one lady or multiple, but “she” is a hot topic here. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On rare occasions, Kiedis does have something new to say, oblique as it may be. “Whatchu Thinkin’” seems to be told from the viewpoint of a native American, while “One-Way Traffic” addresses aging: “Friends got married, had them dogs / Now they read those catalogs / This commerce makes me nauseous / When did life get so damn cautious? / So I drive in search of smiles.” You could read this as a rock star living a carefree life, with the freedom and money to drive around California hitting on women and surfing, or you could read it as a comment on the inevitable slide toward playing it safe and routine as we get older.

Because these guys are professionals, I suppose, there are some good moments to be had. Frusciante adds lovely slide guitar to “Not The One,” a lick he was quoted as saying was inspired by King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai.” The lyrics concern falling out of love with someone as they grow apart over time, and it’s a nice ballad. “Here Ever After” injects some energy early on, and “These Are The Ways” is probably the hardest rock here; unfortunately, it’s set to a weirdly patriotic lyric that recalled to me Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America,” and was unintentionally hilarious.

“Black Summer,” the leadoff track and single, is probably the best song here—great Frusciante solo and backup vocal work—and lyrically less embarrassing and less oblique than most, although that weird Irish accent Kiedis puts on is questionable. But it’s an issue when the first two songs are decent and the next 15 are slogs, rehashes of things the guys did better in 1999 and 2002 and 2006.

I don’t recall much of the early reviews on the band’s previous album, the 2016 effort The Getaway, but listening to it again reveals the band taking some chances, expanding their sound and their lyrics and songwriting. The dark funk of “Dark Necessities”—actually, much of Flea’s work on that album—had some drive to it, and the closing “Dreams Of A Samurai” was a moving and effective six-minute ballad for Scott Weiland. It was a better album because it was a band growing into what they could and should be, and I think Klinghoffer being on hand probably pushed that change.

Unlimited Love is a band regressing to what they used to be, falling back into old patterns and choices, and having a grand time doing it. If Californication remains your favorite Chili Peppers album, then give this a spin, but for all others, there’s not much here that’s memorable or worth more than a casual background listen. I suppose it’s easy to fall back into old patterns with old friends regardless of age, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to be part of it. Disappointing.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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