Return Of The Dream Canteen

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner, 2022

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The release of two Chili Peppers albums in the same year came as quite a surprise, inasmuch as the band is famous for going five years between releases. Coming only a few months on the heels of the mediocre-at-best Unlimited Love, Canteen basically presents itself as more of the same, a similar set of songs culled from the same sessions that yielded Love and saw guitarist John Frusciante back in the band again.

Taken together, the albums bring to mind 2006’s double-album Stadium Arcadium, which was basically two separate CDs released at the same time, but with no unifying theme or concept. For whatever reason, these guys are more productive with Frusciante than they ever were with Josh Klinghoffer or Dave Navarro. Imagine if the second disc of Arcadium had been released five months after the first and you basically have Canteen.

Whether that’s a good thing, though, is another matter. Arcadium was written at a time when the band had a lot to say and when Frusciante was at the top his game experimenting with pedals and the band’s sound, and the album careened from punchy singles to funk workouts to ballads to solid journeyman pop-rock, and the highlights show a band that had evolved beyond its roots. Canteen, however, is basically the Peppers-by-numbers songs that were apparently deemed not worthy enough to appear on Unlimited Lovemy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 .

Why should that fact scare you? Because Unlimited Love kind of sucked. It was 80 minutes full of pleasant late-period slow or midtempo jams with awkward rapping, uninspired playing and repetitive lyrics about an unnamed “she” that, even at age 60, seems to elude Anthony Kiedis. And Canteen is exactly the same thing, a carbon copy of the sound and approach of not only Unlimited Love but the weakest moments of Stadium Arcadium. I know the band’s Klinghoffer albums were not really loved, but at least they had moments of stretching, taking chances, mature lyrics, growing. I can still remember four songs from The Getaway; I can’t remember anything from Love except “Black Summer.”

Now, because these guys have been doing this since 1983, there are still a few good moments that fans may want to check out. Most notable is “Eddie,” a revved-up, six-minute tribute to Mr. Van Halen that features two great Frusciante solos and lyrics that make you feel the pain of losing someone of whom you were a fan. “Fake As Fu@k,” which seems like a title Nicki Minaj thought of, is probably the hardest funk of the record, once you wade through the meandering chorus. “The Drummer” has an actual pulse and a nervy energy and “Carry Me Home” is pretty good as well.

But most of the rest just sort of plods along, ruined either by unmemorable songwriting or by Kiedis’ lame raps; I’d be embarrassed if anyone caught me listening to “My Cigarette” or “Bag of Grins,” while the funereal “La La La La La La La La” is just dreadful, half-finished nonsense that can’t decide what it wanted to be, and also features the great line “Indonesia, that’s my groove / It doesn’t matter where we move.” About the only time the album really tries is the closing “In The Snow,” a sort of chillwave electro-pop that sounds like a completely different band. Kiedis of course has to ruin it with a spoken-word section about three minutes in, but this is thankfully brief.

As with most double albums, this could have been a passable single album. If you combined the best of this with the best of Unlimited Love on a single disc, at that point you’d have the usual cliches about a solid late-period journeyman album from a veteran alt-rock band, and that would be right. Of course, when the Peppers do release an album, it’s usually far too long to begin with, so maybe the inability to self-edit is part of the charm. But life is short, and it does not need to be spent listening to an hour and 15 minutes of leftover songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Stream the best songs and decide for yourself if the rest is worthwhile; my guess is, you’ll agree that much of this could have been released as online-only exclusive bonus tracks or as part of the Unlimited Love box set in 2047.

Rating: C-

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