Red Hot Chili Peppers

Record review

Phases & Stages

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Stadium Arcadium (Warner Bros.)

Hubris goes sock-in-hand with creative peaks, and swaggering into their third decade, the Red Hot Chili Peppers take another unprecedented stage dive forward with Stadium Arcadium. During John Frusciante's first term in L.A.'s trademark funkateers, Mother's Milk birthed global epidemic Blood Sugar Sex Magik, after which the brilliant guitarist imploded and quit. Recorded mostly in Laurel Canyon at the Blood Sugar mansion, Stadium Arcadium crowns the Frusciante II era – 1999 rebirth Californication, followed by the ferocious Pet Sounds of 2002's By the Way – with 28 songs in just over two hours. Pity that "Jupiter," disc one, mostly falls flat. Past the "Purple Haze" of opener "Dani California," and "Under the Bridge"-type user prayer "Snow (Hey Oh)," one waits for the game to begin while tapping a toe to B-sides like "Charlie" and the title track. Stronger animals, such as "Slow Cheetah," miss the mark by inches and old-school bouncers "Hump de Bump" and "Warlocks" rock it rote. Fireworks finally go off at disc's end: the Frusciante-torched "Especially in Michigan," full-frontal thump of "C'mon Girl," screeching density of "Wet Sand," and spare bob-and-weave of closer "Hey." The second CD, "Mars," is a much fiercer deity – the main attraction – and enough to relegate "Jupiter" to a bonus disc, a side dish with intermittent delectables. The Seventies strum and bangle of lead-off "Desecration Smile" dominoes into the effortless strut "Tell Me Baby" and then a perfectly soft-shoe tap dance, "Hard to Concentrate," an interband love song as sweetly sincere as "Beast of Burden." Afterburners on "21st Century," the red-hot melodicism of "Make You Feel Better," and cobra dance of "So Much I" score big. The Clash crammed eight more cuts on their 2-CD Sandinista!, greatness with the mediocrity left untrimmed. Given the razor's edge, Stadium Arcadium might have been London Calling.

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