Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stadium Arcadium Reviews

note: this page is being updated as reviews come in; updated 5-16!

the Mars Volta opening for the chilis. another John Frusciante influence!

Stadium Arcadium reviews:
buffalo news this one is right on:
Throw all of this together, and you've got one of the first double-albums since the Beatles "White Album" that can fully justify its own length. There are no dogs among these 28 tunes, no filler, no moment when you start to feel the excitement wane, or the purpose becoming a bit obfuscated or soggy.

the mariner
toronto sun
bradenton herald today
usa today
detroit news
the globe and mail
rocky mountain news note: this reviewer was listening to another CD
u of maryland's diamondback
san diego
edmonton sun
the observer (a knucklehead)
the guardian
the independent
metro france
interview with chad modern drummer
bloomberg (another knucklehead)
the sun

Miami Herald
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium (Warner Bros) -- Now that iTunes has rebirthed the popularity of the single, releasing a 28-song, double-disc CD set is the height of audacity, a throwback to the excesses of the '70s. But with producer Rick Rubin in top form these days, the band does the near impossible by releasing a viable double album that doesn't make listeners wish it had been pruned into a single disc. The inspired Stadium Arcadium (in stores Tuesday), the band's ninth studio set, finds the Peppers at a peak where vocalist Anthony Kiedis continues to improve as a singer, the agile rhythm section of Flea and Chad Smith hit hard, Prince-worthy funk (Charlie) and sublime post-Californication balladry in Snow (Hey Oh) with equal aplomb, and guitarist John Frusciante cuts loose with jet engine-sized solos on a batch of rock cuts like Turn It Again. Howard Cohen

LA Times
Josh Kun
The difference between the Hollywood dream and the California dream comes down to a question of scale. Hollywood is about the quick flash of stardom and the instant gratification of excess. California is more epic, a glowing, limitless ideal based on the promise and deliverance of the West. Both are risky ventures. Both can kill you. But of the two, California is the better bet: There will be earthquakes and fires, but you just might wake up saved on the beach, with nothing but endless horizon in front of you.

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in 1983, they were a Hollywood band. Though not natives, the Fairfax High grads became synonymous with Hollywood as if it was their motherland (they suggested as much in 1985 when they covered the Meters' "Africa" and changed it to "Hollywood"). A playground for their nudist escapades and drug binges, Hollywood was not a place for the Chili Peppers as much as it was the freak-show centerpiece of a post-punk worldview rooted in reckless hedonism, overheated sexuality and the Lakers. They bragged of being "the funky young kings" of the West and sang about riding saber-toothed horses through the Hollywood Hills.

By 1991's "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," though, the ravages of addiction and death had taken their toll (their founding guitarist, Hillel Slovak, overdosed in 1988), and gradually the Chili Peppers traded the one dream for the other. They became a California band.

They tried to formulate it as a philosophy on 1999's "Californication" ("Destruction leads to a very rough road," they sang on the title track, "but it also breeds creation") and then carried it out with the kind of lyrical introspection and musical grace that few thought the Chili Peppers -- once responsible for songs such as "Catholic School Girls Rule" -- were capable of on 2002's sun-kissed "By the Way." You could practically hear waves breaking between every song.

All this seems to have just been practice for "Stadium Arcadium," their ninth album and by far their most accomplished California recording to date. Full of stories of destructive sunshine, dead dreams and water that will wash it all away, "Stadium" nods to some obvious lyrical and musical influences from the California audio pantheon -- the Mamas and the Papas, X, the Beach Boys -- without ever getting lost in them. It opens full-throttle with "Dani California," a windows-down Pacific Coast Highway cruise that's a ready-made summer anthem. Anthony Kiedis sounds like a John Fante character when he sings "With a name like Dani California, the day was gonna come when I was gonna mourn ya."

Produced by longtime Chili Peppers affiliate Rick Rubin and spread out over two discs and 28 songs (there were 10 more that didn't make the cut), "Stadium" is big, majestic and mature. It overflows with the kind of music the Chili Peppers do best: a physical, often psychedelic mix of spastic bass-slapped funk and glistening alt-rock spiritualism. Only they've never sounded this good as musicians. The use of analog tape lends a raw, organic touch to the whole album and the Chili Peppers come off more assured and confident than they ever did back when they made a career out of bragging.

Much of the credit goes to Kiedis, who used to confuse singing with shouting and slurring. On "Stadium," he doesn't just dabble in melody, he's a glutton for it, imbuing almost every song with layers of vocal emotion. He plays a hippie folk singer on "If," goes trashy disco on "21st Century," and proves he's gotten only better at spewing brash, light-speed funk verse on "Warlocks" (where Billy Preston drops in on clavinet) and "Hum De Bump," two of many "Stadium" tracks that hark to the pelvic thrusts of the band's first few albums.

Kiedis' drug haze has long lifted and you can hear the rehab in his increasingly elastic voice. "I've had a chance to be insane," he sings on "Slow Cheetah," "I've had a chance to break."

"Stadium's" real star, though, is guitarist John Frusciante, who plays like a possessed pointillist, dotting "Stadium" with prismatic rock solos, spirited jazz fills and an ambient array of squiggles, squeals and slides. Flea has always been a bass virtuoso but he outdoes himself on "Torture Me," where he percolates his way through Chad Smith's churning hard-core drum blast and then slows into a pop chorus before the whole thing gets dressed in regal horns.

Elsewhere on "Stadium" there's a cello, a French horn and even a big choral singalong, but part of the album's charm is how unaware it is of its own grandeur. Who has time for posturing when there are lives to rebuild? "We could all come up with something new to be destroyed," Kiedis admits on "Desecration Smile." With Stadium, the Chili Peppers take pleasure in leaving destruction behind, and rolling the dice on their beloved California one more time.

the australian

IN an era of rock marked by the return of the 40-minute album, few acts -- or labels for that matter -- would be brave enough to release a 28-song double set of new material. But then, not everyone is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Stadium Arcadium is a grand album in a number of ways. Grand because two albums -- one called Jupiter and the other Mars -- raise tentative questions about quality control and egocentric goofing off. Grand too because the Chili Peppers have done their damnedest to make this their ultimate statement, to prove they remain one of the most original and cohesive bands on the planet and that they are capable of encapsulating everything that came before in one glorious middle-aged punk-funk, rap-metal celebration. They just about pull it off, too. Part of the plan here was to make Stadium Arcadium a concept offering (something to do with kabbalah philosophy, apparently) so every song has its place. It's all tight and bright, too, thanks to the band's unerring chemistry and Rick Rubin's unobtrusive production. The one constant, however, is guitarist John Frusciante. He's everywhere, funking it up on Charlie and going off the scale on the rockier She's Only 18. His subtle textures and grand histrionics have never complemented the others so well. Flea's bass flies in places, such as on the frenetic Torture Me and the poppier C'Mon Girl, while singer Anthony Kiedis has never been in better voice: assertive, soulful and even fragile on the likes of She Looks to Me and Desecration Smile, the latter a real change of pace in a 1960s psychedelia kind of way. Twenty-three years on, Stadium Arcadium is an album fresh enough, but still grounded in their basic formula, to keep the Chili Peppers ahead of the pack.

Iain Shedden



To make their ninth studio album, the Red Hot Chili Peppers looked back to what was arguably their greatest triumph, 1991's BloodSugarSexMagik: They wrote the songs in the same place, they recorded them in the same Hollywood Hills house, and they used the same producer (the brilliant Rick Rubin). The Chili Peppers ended up recapturing the old magic and then some, turning out an ambitious, inspired double disc that just may go down as the best thing of their career. Stadium Arcadium hits it out of the park with 28 songs evenly split between two CDs, Jupiter and Mars, which, had they been released individually, would have easily stood alone. Packaged together, though, there's more room to showcase the sprawling scope and crack musicianship of a band that, against all odds, continues to evolve. Frontman Anthony Kiedis, especially, has grown from a one- note rap-rocker to a real singer capable of emotional depth and nuance, as well as testosterone-fueled aggression. Each member really gets to shine, though: Flea, in addition to laying down his usual funky bass lines, even gets to show off his trumpet skills. While they take the melodicism of 2002's By the Way to new heights-- a dreamy ballad like "If" would make Coldplay jealous--they also demonstrate that they can still kick it old-school on blustering jams like "Storm in a Teacup." [4 stars]

centre daily times

By Cole Hons, for the CDT

Very few bands have the staying power of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Like U2 and R.E.M., the Chilis came up in the '80s, but continues to make relevant music and sell millions of records today. On "Stadium Arcadium," the band's ninth studio release, the world's most popular Los Angeles bad boys prove they're still in love with music and willing to experiment.

The record is a double-disc set, with 28 songs and more than two hours of music. This format can often lead to a whole lot of filler, but "Stadium" stands up very well. A huge, warm, deep sound permeates every track, making it obvious that a lot of time and effort went into the production. But with Rick Rubin back in the producer's seat, that's to be expected.

Ever since Rubin first brought the Chilis into the top 10 with the massively influential "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" in '91, Anthony Kiedis, Flea and co. have been expanding their sound beyond the good-time party vibes they mastered throughout the '80s. On this disc, they continue to grow. Notable successes include:

u "Make you Feel Better": The band leaves the funk behind in favor of a bouncy New Wave beat that Modern English would have been proud of, then adds sweet surf-rock harmonies and touches of rockabilly guitar.

u "Animal Bar": Another return to the '80s style, but in the underground New Wave vein, with a Mike Watt-style bassline.

u "We Believe": The band has mixed laid-back jazz and propulsive rock forever, but it takes that vibe to a new level on this smooth head-bopper.

Other gems include "Torture Me," a furious groove, with massive gospel-esque harmonies and an unexpected synthetic horn figure, recalling "Nothing's Shocking"-era Jane's Addiction. Over a monstrous beat, Kiedis coolly muses "A vintage year for pop I hear/The middle of the end is near."

"C'mon Girl" is one of the most extreme fusions of house disco and wild-eyed rock the band has ever dreamed up. "So Much I," "Hump De Bump" and the vaguely homo-erotic "Charlie" are all fine returns to punk-funk party form. And "Stadium's" fine collection of sad-eyed ballads demonstrates that Kiedis' vocal subtlety continues to deepen with age. "Hard to Concentrate," "If" and "Slow Cheetah" contain some very delicate sounds, and the gorgeous title track recalls the similarly mournful title track of "Californication."

Much of the music here shows the musicians of the Red Hot Chili Peppers just doing what they do best -- kicking out the funky jams, throwing a nod or two to '70s classic rock, and messing around with wild guitar tones, while Kiedis makes weird, stream-of-consciousness rhymes atop it all.

John Frusciante's guitar playing is absolutely fabulous, as daring as ever. Flea continues to be one of the most versatile bass players in rock. And Chad Smith is still laying down expertly solid grooves. As usual, the band's efforts create a perfect backdrop for Kiedis' goofy, sensitive soul-brother routine.

With a sorrowful, minor-key vibe running through both discs, the band creates the sensation of partying amidst the shambles of a crumbling world. Maybe it's thinking of leaving. The two CDs in the set are titled "Jupiter" and "Mars," respectively. Wherever they end up, the Chilis should be OK. These tracks are fine enough to rock the cosmos, whatever planet you're on.

Entertainment weekly
Listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' new hit single, "Dani California," and you'll get a sense of what's good, bad, and aggravating about Stadium Arcadium, the band's ninth studio album. The song opens with the Chili Peppers rehashing their funky white- boy shtick, as frontman Anthony Kiedis spits out half-baked slacker rap over a swaggering beat. But then guitar whiz John Frusciante lays down his sledgehammer riffs, Kiedis begins to actually sing the elegiac chorus, the golden harmonies of the bridge kick in, and by the end, you're blindsided by how great it all sounds.

Just like the single, the two-CD Stadium Arcadium (one inexplicably named "Mars," the other "Jupiter") has flashes of brilliance and moments of inanity. Think of it as a 122-minute, 28- track encapsulation of the varied musical phases of the quartet's bumpy 22-year career. There's the early, sophomoric punky funk, the career-making alterna-ballads, and the unlikely late-'90s revival as mature, tuneful, middle-aged rock stars. Maybe they're playing it safe by casting such a wide net. But who can blame them? Their last album, 2002's By the Way, went too far into mellow navel-gazing territory for their party-hearty fans. It moved under 2 million copies--a definite disappointment after 1999's quintuple-platinum career reboot, Californication, which savvily added textured pop ("Otherside") to their well-loved mix of moody post-addiction meditations and mosh-pit grooves.

Stadium Arcadium ensures that graying Lollapalooza-era fans, indie teens, and rowdy lunkheads will all be satisfied. Arenas will explode to the Funkadelic-esque "Readymade" and the psychedelic shredfest "Turn It Again," with its orgasmic, multi-tracked guitar coda. Married-with-children Pepperheads can snuggle to the spiritual pop epiphanies ("Stadium Arcadium") and love songs like "Hard to Concentrate," where Kiedis admits that even serial model daters have monogamy envy.

By reaching out to the next generation of testos-terone-fueled party animals, however, the Peppers stumble. Their '80s frat-rap mode, with its slap-bass diddling and bonehead rhymes ("Warlocks"), lingers like a bad case of mono. It's not that the James Brownish "Charlie" is any worse than a sock-era classic like "Fight Like a Brave" (it might even be better), but to anyone used to the virtuosity of Jay-Z, Kiedis' clumsy flow sounds as dated as an episode of Small Wonder.

When you try to deliver something for everyone--particularly with a double album--a few missteps are to be expected. (They actually recorded 38 tracks with producer Rick Rubin, so we should be thankful it's not a triple disc.) In the era of MP3 ripping and burning, is a slightly bloated two-hour disc worth bitching about? Not really. With a few clicks of the mouse, Stadium Arcadium can become the streamlined, near-perfect disc hidden within. B+

Boston Herald
Grade: B+

The Red Hot Chili Peppers always have been a bit contrarian. When starting out as a punk band, they knelt at the altar of P-Funk, not the Sex Pistols. In the grunge era, instead of flannel they donned nothing but strategically placed tube socks. Now in the singles- obsessed era of iTunes, they've released a 28-song double CD.

Surprisingly, "Stadium Arcadium" (out tomorrow) has little filler. It may be overwhelming and over-the-top in its sheer breadth, but the L.A. punk-funk veterans deliver the goods.

"Stadium Arcadium" resumes the Chili Peppers renaissance, a comeback that began with 1999's "Californication." Produced by Rick Rubin, it continues the foursome's recent obsession with melody, breathy harmonies and dense sonic textures. That said, glimpses of their manic and unhinged early years pop off often, most notably in the throwback shout-funk of "Hump de Bump" and the slap-bass explosion "Tell Me Baby."

Now all in their 40s, the Chili Peppers reveal an increased maturity, both musically and lyrically. On "Hard to Concentrate," the band locks into a percolating Afro-pop groove with fluttering guitars and bouncing bass lines, underscoring singer Anthony Kiedis' bid for the domesticated life:"All I want is for you to be happy and take this moment to make you my family." A bit of a departure from "Suck My Kiss," no?

Even with the charismatic Kiedis and the blitzkreig bass-playing Flea, the undisputed star is guitarist John Frusciante. While tasteful and restrained on previous efforts, he cuts loose on all 28 tracks, whether shredding monster riffs ("Readymade"), plucking delicate lines ("C'mon Girl") or nailing dirty feedback-laced guitar solos ("She's Only 18").

Yes, there are duds. Fortunately, the forgettable tracks are far outnumbered by standouts. Due to the music-buying public's ever- decreasing attention span, the Chili Peppers may not revive the rock tradition known as the double album. But they've never been about setting trends. They're about defying them. Download: "Dani California." - Christopher Blagg

Chicago Tribune

Peppers' Stadium: Too much of too little
By Greg Kot, Tribune music critic
On their latest album, the unnecessarily excessive double-CD "Stadium Arcadium" (Warner), the Red Hot Chili Peppers try to complete their evolution from orangutanlike hedonists into sensitive human beings.

They are only partially successful. At the end of this arduous 28-song haul, newly spiritual singer Anthony Kiedis is still a freak. He may profess his love and respect for the opposite gender, but hair keeps sprouting from his palms.

It's not for lack of trying. Two hour-plus discs dubbed "Mars" and "Jupiter" paint the Peppers as enlightened adults who respect their women and one another, have sworn off drugs and bought into monogamy. Past escapades with catastrophic groupies and even more catastrophic chemicals are painted as cautionary tales. Redemption, or striving for redemption, is the overriding theme.

Hedonistic rock stars who have found "the way" are a dime a dozen, and the Chili Peppers are less credible than most. Perhaps it's the once ubiquitous images of these fun-seekers wearing nothing but strategically placed tube socks on their otherwise naked physiques that leave me somewhat dubious. That, and Kiedis' sentiments in the barely legal "She's Only 18": "I put my lovin' in your oven." Once a rogue, always a rogue.

Singles parade

But, give them this: After bringing the party booga-booga in their first decade, the Chili Peppers turned into the great alternative-rock singles band of the '90s and beyond. And they're in no danger of stopping now.

The memorable songs that were so elusive in the '80s poured out of them with regularity on such hits-heavy releases as "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (1991), "Californication" (1999) and "By the Way" (2002).

Though none of those albums was a start-to-finish classic, there were enough memorable tunes to justify the Los Angeles quartet's rise into arena-rock icons.

During this era, their collaborations with producer Rick Rubin yielded a bounty of songs with catchy melodies, delectably androgynous harmonies, mind-melting bass lines (Flea, take a bow) and transcendent guitar solos (from Jimi Hendrix disciple John Frusciante).

Rubin is back as producer for "Stadium Arcadium," but his usually rigorous songwriting standards have gone flabby; this is a "Stadium" full of filler. For a band that has always succumbed to overkill, this is no surprise. If the party was the downfall of the '80s Peppers, which lost guitarist Hillel Slovak to a drug overdose and nearly lost Kiedis to his addictions, then "Stadium" stumbles in its belief that more is better. Not even half of these 28 tracks is worthy of release.

Radio-hit possibilities

Fans must pick through the detritus to find the gems, several of which should wind up as radio hits: the hypnotic momentum of "Snow (Hey Oh)," the vocal harmonies that balance the brutal terseness of "Make You Feel Better," the wicked interplay between Flea and Frusciante on "So Much I." Frusciante's contributions alone make a worthy listen, whether biding his time to take over a song at strategic intervals ("Turn It Again"), laying down a gorgeous countermelody ("Desecration Smile"), unleashing a striking solo ("Strip My Mind") or veering from rhapsody to release ("Torture Me").

But it's merely the outline of what might've been a promising single CD. Like their self-satisfied classic-rock forebears, the Chili Peppers have become victims of their own excesses. Remarkably, it wasn't the drugs and partying that sunk them. It was their misguided belief in their prowess as prolific songwriters.

Charlotte Observer

The 28-eight song double album, "Stadium Arcadium," might come as a shock had it been released right after the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1991 commercial, Rick Rubin-produced breakthrough, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik." Following the maturity of 1999's "Californication" and 2002's "By the Way," "Arcadium" is the next logical step, if a somewhat long, wide one.

Despite the audacity of a double album in an increasingly singles-friendly world, the Chili Peppers don't fall on their faces because they (with Rubin's help) stick to what they do best -- hopped-up funk, and more frequently, the textured mid-tempo pop they first tapped into with "Breaking the Girl" on "Blood Sugar." With rich vocal harmonies, guitarist John Frusciante's refined playing (only showy when it's called for) and the tight, dependable, flowery-funk rhythm section of Flea and Chad Smith, RHCP have perfected their brand of edgy pop.

They still have fun romping through the first single, "Dani California," and get old-school silly on "Hump de Bump," although it's the most annoying track. The dark, big title track and single-ready "Tell Me Baby" are a few of the more serious standouts.

While the two-disc set is a bit excessive, these funk-metal-turned-respectable-adult-rockers have earned a little excess in their 22 years. -- Courtney Devores

New York Post

BAND bliss was maintained while making "Stadium Arcadium," the hotly anticipated ninth Red Hot Chili Peppers record, by giving each member of the quartet a slot in the spotlight.

There are times when Anthony Kiedis' emotional baritone segues from funk to punk to Cali-style dance hall (sans the patois). At others, Flea's potent bass is showcased as a lead instrument.

Then drummer Chad Smith's beats become the heart of a few songs. Not to mention John Frusciante's skillful, chameleon-like guitar licks that morph from distorted rock to radio-hook pop.

Sounds good, right? Then why just three stars for this record?

Because this must-have collection, featuring more than a dozen killer tracks, dilutes itself with filler designed to give star turns rather fan thrills.

Don't blame the RHCP.

The fault lies with the group's longtime producer, Rick Rubin, who failed to edit this 28-song double album down to a single grand slam with unrelenting momentum.

Rubin's a smart guy who knows that the way to carve an elephant from a block of wood is by cutting away everything that doesn't look like an elephant. For "Stadium," he should have insisted that at least 10 songs (maybe more) be whittled out.

There's a kick-ass, fourstar record inside "SA"; you just have to suss it out, since Rubin didn't. Look for that seamless collection when tracks open with fiery funk and then dust off the groove with an "Under the Bridge"style ballad.

On this record, you can hear the "Californication" formula in towering songs such as "Charlie," which features a deep funk groove and stream-of-consciousness lyrics that would make David Byrne's (talking) head spin.

As for the ballads, the unusually gentle "Animal Bar" stands out with a sound that's unlike their usual fare.

Other stunners include the funky "Hump de Bump," the syncopated "Especially in Michigan," and "Warlocks," which is supercharged by keyboard master Billy Preston, who turns up on the sessions even though he's been ailing from heart and kidney problems.

To distill this disc to its most potent force, here are a few hints: Axe the title track, dump "Slow Cheetah" for its dull bridge, kill "Torture Me" and eliminate the whiny "If." These are the buzz-kills of the batch.

That done, just whack six more songs from the halfbaked numbers and, ta-da!, the Chili Peppers have another tight, four-star record.

Download: "Animal Bar," like cocktails on Noah's Ark.

All four Peppers take a starring role on their ninth studio album, "Stadium Arcadium." Michael Muller

Miami Herald

Now that iTunes has rebirthed the popularity of the single, releasing a 28-song, double-disc CD set is the height of audacity, a throwback to the excesses of the '70s when everyone from hard rock's Led Zeppelin to disco's Donna Summer did double album packages.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, with can-do producer Rick Rubin in top form these days, do the near impossible by releasing a viable double album that doesn't make listeners wish it had been pruned into a single disc.

The inspired Stadium Arcadium (in stores Tuesday), the band's ninth studio set, finds the Peppers at a peak where vocalist Anthony Kiedis continues to improve as a singer, the agile rhythm section of Flea and Chad Smith hit hard Prince-worthy funk ( Charlie ) and sublime post- Californication balladry in Snow (Hey Oh) with equal aplomb, and guitarist John Frusciante cuts loose with jet engine-sized solos on a batch of rock cuts like Turn It Again . That one, the set's penultimate track, should have been the closer in that regard to bring this diverse, ambitious and shockingly cohesive mammoth to an invigorating conclusion.