CD Review of Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Stadium Arcadium
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Warner Brothers
Released: 2006
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It had to happen eventually. The dreaded double album bug finally came and claimed the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now before we go about pointing fingers back to the Beatles and The White Album, let’s not forget that Frank Zappa actually debuted in 1966 with the Mothers of Invention’s double album Freak Out! But we won’t point fingers at either of those releases because they’re both far more exciting and still enjoyable after all these years when compared to Stadium Arcadium, the double-whammy that RHCP have decided to dump into the public’s collective laps.

You might as well point to double album messes such as oh, any of those first releases from Chicago, or Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness when tossing up comparable titles. Lest we forget, the Chili Peppers peaked magnificently years ago with BloodSugarSexMagik after a pile of half-assed releases, and then quickly went back into the gutter with One Hot Minute. Since then, they’ve reclaimed public and critical acclaim beginning with Californication and winding up here in the present. Over the years, the band has mellowed, with frontman Anthony Kiedis reportedly kicking his smack habits over and over and guitarist John Frusciante working out his own personal demons on the way. Overall it has made for some decent singles, but not necessarily great albums. So it is with Stadium Arcadium.

Look, if you don’t have at least a London Calling (the greatest double album ever) in your system, don’t even bother putting out more than one disc at a time. God knows even the Clash thought they had enough interesting material to release the triple disc Sandinista! and we all remember how that turned out. But back to the Chilis. Let us again recall BloodSugarSexMagik here. It was great. And it was really fucking long to boot. Now double that experience minus the amount of sharp songs and you’ve got a headache, and a rather mediocre one at that.

Hey, it all starts off great with the single “Dani California,” but then it’s time to pull out that magical ballad machine as early as the second track and spew forth with the dull “Snow (Hey Oh).” You remember “Under the Bridge,” “Soul To Squeeze,” “Scar Tissue,” etc., right? Well, all of those are better in their own Xeroxed fashions than this song. In fact, let’s just count up and get the slower shit out of the way. There’s “If,” a corny slice of navel gazing, “Especially in Michigan,” where Kiedis does some unintentionally funny throat theatrics, “Death of a Martian,” which revists the entire vibe of Californication with diminished results, “Desecration Smile” (more regurgitated tender crapola), as well as “Hard to Concentrate,” “Stadium Arcadium,” “She Looks To Me,” “Slow Cheetah,” “Strip My Mind,” “We Believe,” “Wet Sand,” and “Hey.” So that’s a whopping total of 13 – almost half the double disc set – tracks that are heart tuggers. And they all pretty much groove the same, cast about the same dark kinda washed-out emotion, and are all equally sleepy and dull.

So that leaves the rest of the album which also flits about in a stagnant pool of forced funk that just sounds completely tired after all this time. “Charlie” sounds like the band is just phoning it in. God knows both Flea and Frusciante can crank out far more exciting music than this by-the-numbers slop. And what is it with Kiedis having to croon every Goddamn song anymore? “Hump De Bump” is completely decimated by his cornball phrasing. And when that kind of fakery isn’t going on, we have to be dragged through the “we used to be a funky band” theatrics of stuff like “Storm in a Teacup” that tries its best to reach back to the old Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Mother’s Milk days and comes off like a Chili Peppers tribute band instead of the real thing. If that’s not bad enough, the band even does a limp retread of BSSM on “Tell Me Baby” that has zero energy.

What has happened to this group? Is it really just a case of getting older and tired and just spinning the wheels? If nothing else, Stadium Arcadium is one big tribute to the band’s own suckiness. When these guys are on, they’re great, but when they’re just “working,” they can’t get shit together. So what’s the salvation here? Well, despite the bland songs, the band can still play, even though they’re aping past glories all over here. Plus, the album is doing some domination on the charts, so obviously a lot of fans dig this one. But you can bet that this album will go down as one of those “should have been one disc instead of two” releases not too long from now. It seriously might be time to hang it up, guys. If the thought crosses any of your minds that it’s time to put the socks on the cocks again, then it’s definitely time to call it a day.

~Jason Thompson