Album Notes - Red Hot Chili Peppers - Unlimited Love
In a post-truth, deepfake world, very few things seem unassailably factual, but I posit the following (and believe most would agree): the Red Hot Chili Peppers are at their best when John Frusciante is a member.
Appearing on a RHCP album for the first time since 2006's Stadium Arcadium, the reclusive axeman rejoined the group in 2019 and brings his unmistakable style to the Angelenos' first record in nearly six years. My initial reaction after one run through of their twelfth LP was, "meh," but I soon found myself inexplicably wanting to hear a number of tunes again.
Often subdued and sultry, Unlimited Love is the most understated effort in their catalog. More "chill" than "red hot" it's still the Peppers through and through: Anthony Kiedis does his thing, lyrical and vocal style and limitations intact ("Anyway I was headed south/Taste of coffee in my mouth/Heading up the 405/Angry drivers on both sides" anyone?); Flea buggin out on the bass while Chad Smith keeps the rhythm section tight; Frusciante's melodic beauty. Like most any album that's 74 minutes and features 17 songs, there are bound to be a couple of clunkers, and parts of the album, particularly nearer the beginning, do have something of a "paint by Chili Peppers numbers" feel. That said, the intrigue picks up on "It's Only Natural" and endures to the end.
There will be plenty of noise in the coming days from fans and critics alike, with no shortage of ammo here to support a range of opinions. For me, the word I keep returning to as I ponder Unlimited Love is one I've never before associated with the Red Hot Chili Peppers: mature.