AUDIO JUNKIE: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 'Unlimited Love' brings back hit lineup, sound

Published April 4, 2022, 12:27 PM

by Punch Liwanag

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The long-running Los Angeles-based funk and rock band brings back ace guitarist, producer and sound for new album titled “Unlimited Love.”

The big news, of course, is the return of John Frusciante.

The ace guitarist left the group in 2009 but returned in 2019.

And it does not disappoint (spoiler alert).

But his return also brings a lot of intangibles. Besides the fact that he is simply, the best guitarist, and bandmate for lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith. Frusciante’s chemistry with the RHCP core members is so natural that everybody simply shines on their individual roles and mesh so beautifully at the same time.

Especially the way he works with bassist Flea. Mid tempo track “It’s Only Natural” is a fine example of how their styles fit like a glove.

Official album art cover

And judging by the top charting first single “Black Summer,” their listeners agree as well. And we hear a re-energized Red Hot Chili Peppers on charging and fist pumping “Here Ever After.”

Flea puts the crimp on the low end on funky “Aquatic Mouth Dance.” Those aching for more funk from the biggest Funk-alternative-rock band of the 90’s won’t be disappointed. Because after more than 3 decades, The Peppers can bring it and bring it good, like on playful funk “Poster Child,” and “It’s Only Natural.”

“The Great Apes” is a six-string highlight for Frusciante fans. Not much for its guitar histrionics but for the way Frusciante uses the guitar, like a painter uses brush and paint on canvas. On “She’s A Lover ” Frusciante heats up the final minute-six-seconds with a singing solo.

On glorious sounding alternative rocker “These Are The Ways” we notice Anthony Kiedis’ lyric-writing. And it is as it’s always been—wherein he uses word snatches, snippets and rhymes—to come up with a theme the same way a digital mosaic can be one image from afar but is made up of various images when it’s up close. Play “Veronica” for a fine kiedis-centric experience to see what we mean.

We get our first taste of something different from RHCP in the slow ballad “Not The One.” Ditto, “Bastards Of Light” sees RHCP using synths, sounding like an 80’s new wave band at the start but with a turn, sounds like an Americana band on the choruses. Look out for the middle 8 for another stylistic change.

At seventeen tracks, “Unlimited Love” sprawls stylistically. The Red Hot Chili Peppers easily flirt with funk, rock, rap, classic rock with the virtuosity of a seasoned pro (check out “One Way Traffic” for a sample). But the Peppers also sound tight and unified. As if Frusciante never spent a decade away from Kiedis, Flea and Smith. Which is to say that this lineup of the band is the best there ever was and will.

Album high points also include “Whatchu Thinkin’,” and “White Braids & Pillow Chair.”

For this record, manning the producer’s chair is Rick Rubin. A longtime Peppers collaborator, Rubin has been at the helm of RHCP’s hit records at key points in the band’s career. “Blood, Sugar, Sex Magic” and “Californication” the most notable of them. Both gigantic hits. His return has always coincided with Frusciante’s (several) returns into the band, including this one. If his record holds, then “Unlimited Love” will be another platinum hit for him and Red Hot Chili Peppers.