Listening Closely - Our first Blog

Me and Cliff have been struggling to regularly meet up to play music together, mainly because of my care responsibilities and how difficult it is to travel and stay away from home.

The other week we did manage to get together and record in Cliff’s new home studio, it was such a pleasure. Cliff has put a considerable amount of time and effort into mixing the many double bass and beat box ideas we in fact both came up with. With the way things are in the world I feel this is the way we shall be working for a while, it’s wonderfully creative, like your first full band rehearsal when you’re a teenager, where everything feels possible.

Social media is a real dilemma for everyone and especially musicians. How do you stay visible if you don’t have a social media presence? There are countless ethical questions and moral dilemmas too. Musician’s surely should be just doing the music and shouldn’t have to post everything up online, my fear is that quality is slipping. How many live music videos have you seen that you’ve actually thought were any good for instance? I think social media is just another distraction in an already crazily distracting world. That said, if we need to be building our online presence to survive, then I only want to make it useful. I’m currently studying, and this has highlighted how little I actually know, how ropey my writing is and how infrequently I’ve been closely listening to music. So, I thought every week, I’ll pick an album and point people towards it. I’m hoping that it’ll open a creative and musical dialogue between us all and with a bit of luck improve, my writing, my attention and actually force me to listen to the albums I own.

My first album review is Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication.

I picked this record because while recording in Eastbourne recently, it’s all I could listen to, the bass playing is wonderful and very melodic. The intro to this record is so exciting ‘Around the World’ has so many great textures, the start is like a Rage Against the Machine album, so full, followed by a stripped-down funk bass driven verse. The return of super innovative guitarist, John Frusciante is so apparent on this record, his unique approach, his guitar lines, his solos alongside his wonderful backing vocals, vocals which are such fun to belt along to whilst driving. He has been missed since he left.

I won’t go through all the tracks, as there are 16 of them, but the intro and verse riff on both guitar and bass is lush on the next track ‘Parallel Universe’, this track truly rocks and is the heaviest track on the album, makes me feel all young again, it’s hard to believe this album came out in 1999, over 20 years ago.

‘Scar Tissue’ was a huge single for this band, it’s in a similar vain to their biggest single to date ‘Under The Bridge’. Lyrically to me this song must be about using heroin, addiction and loneliness. The chorus indicates what it must be like to always being on the outside looking in. This song is a fantastic use of bass and guitar melody, so much space. Flea and Frusciante know how to complement each other and not get in each other’s way.

In a similar vain to ‘Scar Tissue’ is the track ‘Otherside’, this album delves emotionally deeper than previous records, commenting on subjects as broad ranging as mortality, drugs, consumerism, escapism and the breakdown of society.

I’m less of a fan of tracks like ‘Get On Top’ they’re fun but definitely of the old school RHCP and lack depth for me, my 18-year-old self wouldn’t have cared, especially if the electric bass uses a Wah-wah on it.

The album title track ‘Californication’ was ground breaking for RHCP, a song that rallies against how the world is being treated, a cry for change and for us to step away from all that has become plastic and meaningless, I remember this video was all over MTV at the time and was highly innovative.

‘Porcelain’ Is a beautiful and short song, Anthony Kiedis’s singing on the whole of this record is great and in collaboration with Frusciante’s backing vocals, it’s especially moving.

I love the bass and drums on ‘Emit Remmus’, filthy sounding, soo much space again with no one playing chords till the chorus, just that single distorted, almost feedback guitar line, really cool. In the bridge you have this double tracked electric bass, one playing punky chords and the other with a cool groove, the whole track has a real edge to it.

I’m not a fan of ‘I like Dirt’ Feels very much like an unfinished Jam, bass line is cool, but it lacks any kind of depth, the bridge guitar riff is mental sounding though. The whole track has a feel of not being finished.

‘This Velvet Glove’ is different again, reminiscent of a track from ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’, with the backing acoustic guitar. I do like the vocal melody and the contrast between the verses and chorus’s, the track builds really well.

I do remember ‘working out the disco octave bass line from the track ‘Right On Time’.

The album ends with the beautiful summery ‘Road Trippin’ So nice to hear a Chamberlin organ instead of the strings, it adds a Beatles era sound to it, one of the rare tracks without drums on it. I often long for the days of travelling around with my friends again, there is a melancholic layer to this record, which perhaps comes from misspent youth and time passing by too quickly.

In conclusion this band, and in particularly this album are massively influential to musicians everywhere, so many bands that practice in schools, garage’s and family’s spare rooms, can relate to the jamming feel they capture, even though they are massively successful. Their musicianship is exemplary and their creativity as songwriters is wonderful to hear, nothing feels sanitised. Credit also has to be pointed in the direction of master producer Rick Rubin, he seems to be able to inspire great records, from what I’ve heard he is pretty hands off with RHCP, but he definitely brings out the best in them.

That's it for today. Stay well and safe. JP X

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