Red Hot Chili Peppers – Return of the Dream Canteen
Return of the Dream Canteen is the 13th studio album from the evergreen LA funksters. After a six-year hiatus, the return of erstwhile guitarist John Frusciante clearly unlocked something, and a prolific musical conversation ensued. During the pandemic Frusciante and the rest of the band (lead singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith) listened to their 1980s albums and inspirations, and jammed. They came to recording sessions with producer Rick Rubin with 100 songs to work on and distil. April’s Unlimited Love held 17 of the resulting tracks and this album has another 17.
The band’s career has now lasted almost 40 years, from their seedy and nihilistic roots in the LA punk scene to the singular breakthrough, Blood Sugar Sex Magik to the behemoth of Californication and the pop-rock By the Way. What is most unlikely about the band’s endurance is that all the original members are still alive. Frusciante left the band for the first time in 1992 as his teeth had fallen out from heroin use, and he presumably wanted away from the mayhem. Kiedis and Flea had a teenage hobby of jumping into apartment complex swimming pools from several floors up – a habit that left Kiedis with a broken back. Despite addictions being long behind them, the sheer intensity of their young living means they are almost unbelievably lucky to still be here.
The album opens with Tippa My Tongue, which sounds very much like their early days, Kiedis spouting his trademark pert, rhythmic wordplay, and an impudent “ner, ner, ner, ner” through the lyrics. Single Eddie is a tribute to Eddie van Halen with a suitably wailing guitar riff, but fails to light up melodically. My Cigarette has a hook reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face – a strange little love song to smoking, built around downbeat synths. Its oddity makes it stand out. Pensive closing track In the Snow is a particular highlight, as is Reach Out, which has a shifting and unpredictable groove.
The production is crisp and sharp. It sounds big, but not a moment is lost; every beat is highlighted. Kiedis is in fine voice but really this is Frusciante’s show. His guitar is high in the mix, given room to be playful and inventive while being responsive to the vocals. The album is too long and could definitely have done with a tighter edit, but it reminds listeners why the Chilis have had such longevity: they’re really good musicians and they’re interesting.
Return of the Dream Canteen is released on 14th October 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Red Hot Chili Peppers’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Tippa My Tongue here: