Sunday, October 23, 2022

“Please Don’t Treat Me Like an Afterthought…”: Red Hot Chili Peppers Prove They Still Have More to Give with ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’

With their 13th studio album ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’, the Red Hot Chili Peppers show no signs of slowing down almost forty years since their formation in LA in 1983. Being one of the last-standing classic funk-rock bands, the ‘Chilis' relentlessness is undoubtedly their most enduring quality.     

On the back of their tour for ‘Unlimited Love’ released in April, this album will be their second double LP in just one year. The new tracks are taken from the same recording sessions with Rick Rubin, who first produced for the band back in 2006 for their number one ‘Stadium Arcadium’. With another 17 tracks and clocking in at 75 minutes (even longer than their last album), ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’ is far from an afterthought, it feels like a promise that the Chilis still have more to give. 

The album’s lead single ‘Tippa My Tongue’ is classic Chilis funk and feels like an (acid-)trip to their earlier days. The lyric “We’ve only just begun/Funky Monks are on the run” refers to the renowned ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ which launched the band into the spotlight back in 1991 and was their first appearance as the line-up we know and love today.  

Red Hot Chili Peppers have undergone more band member changes than most. ‘Unlimited Love’ marked the return of John Frusciante following his second absence in the band’s history. This new album continues to display the Chilis in their best form and is reminiscent of his last return with ‘Californication’. ‘Eddie’, the band’s heartfelt tribute to Eddie Van Halen, features reverberating guitar solos that are unpredictable yet impossibly seamless-  another reminder of Frusciante’s genius as a guitarist. 

In September bassist Flea tweeted ‘I am profoundly satisfied with the album coming’, as he should be. With ‘Peace and Love’ Flea immediately does what he does best, laying down a drooling bassline. His solo later in the track continues to build a soulful groove, giving rhythm to the message of, well, peace and love. 

Return of the Dream Canteen’ also includes up-tempo tracks like ‘Fake as Fu@k’ which, just like the Chilis’ infamous ‘Can’t Stop’ or their more recent ‘Poster Child’, is Anthony Kiedis at his most inventive. It is a mouthful to say the least but what Chilis album would be complete without a track which takes a little longer to learn?

As a lyricist Kiedis is both playful and profound at the same time. ‘Bella’ shows his talent for turning melancholy lyrics into catchy, upbeat verse – “Bella cries and that’s alright, she’s/Weepin’ on my shoulder again, well/Bella lies and that’s my type, I/Wish I could hold her”.   

The Drummer’ unsurprisingly displays the immense skill of one of the best drummers on the classic rock scene: the Chilis' own Chad Smith. Rather than a drum solo that might be expected, the track is pinned down by a consistently flawless beat. Later in ‘Copperbelly’ Smith displays his immense hand speed during a duet with Frusciante.   

Musically speaking the overall feeling of the album is that there isn’t one. The rather experimental, 80s-inspired ‘My Cigarette’, a smooth and sexy ode to smoking driven by dreamy synths and complete with a jazzy outro, proves the Chilis can still transcend their typical patterns and defy expectations.  

At times it seems like the return of the cheeky band who would perform on stage wearing only socks. Slower tracks such as ‘In the Snow’ are more introspective with lyrics like “Does everything that feels so nice/Come with an inverted price?”. Bursts of spoken word poetry feel jarring and real compared to Kiedis’ usual eccentricity. 

Listening to these tracks you are suddenly aware of the long and unusually chaotic road Red Hot Chili Peppers have taken to where they are today. Their philosophy has always been 'more is more' and unapologetically doing as they please, so why would they stop now?  


Maebh Springbett


Image: ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’ Official Album Cover



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