mon 15/07/2024

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Unlimited Love | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Unlimited Love

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Unlimited Love

Funk-rock veterans offer mellow romance and an unabashed lust for life

Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography Scar Tissue, an extreme example of wisdom through sometimes squalid excess, explains a great deal about the Chili Peppers’ mix of priapic lust and wistful romance.

The return of guitarist John Frusciante and producer Rick Rubin, ever-presents on all their good albums, signals the band’s retrenchment after an inconsequential decade, Rubin’s usual back to basics MO ensuring that Unlimited Love sounds comfortingly familiar, naturally following on from peaks such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), Californication (1999) and Stadium Arcadium (2006).

Opener “Black Summer” is a mostly acoustic ballad in a mellow record which lives up to its title, showcasing the first of many sky-scraping Frusciante solos, and the relaxed romanticism of Kiedis’s singing. Arrangements are stripped back and subtle. “It’s Only Natural”, lauding “a London girl…the pride of Brixton”, burnishes classic rock with fading dub echoes. “The Great Apes” is among the songs harking back to older, Sixties Angeleno rock, and “Let ‘Em Cry”, with its Bacharach trumpet shadowing Kiedis’s freewheeling modes of affection – “Touch up the neighbour, she don’t mind”; “All I know is, I feel fine”” – before finally returning to wife and daughter in the small hours, shows unbroken faith in the freest love. “The Heavy Wing”’s verses recall The Doors’ most baroque, sun-kissed ballads, with a Jim Morrison back from the grave purged of his black-hearted self-destruction, and instead loving madly.

Historic hedonism, including some of Scar Tissue’s events, are now fine-combed for crimes and misdemeanours, Kiedis the unwillingly precocious, dope-smoking hippie child grown into a man out of time. The fatal overdose of guitarist Hillel Slovak which brought Frusciante into the band, and the Chili Peppers’ many subsequent addictions, mean they know wildness’s pitfalls; they’re a clean machine now. Still, “One Way Traffic” sees Kiedis rail against domesticated, consumerist conservatism, looking around him aged 59 to ask: “This commerce makes me so nauseous, when did life get so damn cautious?”

“These Are The Ways” attempts a bigger picture, promising, “These are the ways when you come from America, the sights, the sounds, the smells”, and asking, “Have we all had enough? Have we all had too much?” Starting weary and rueful, clamouring Who-like chords revive spirits. “Bastards Of Light”, surely nodding to The Replacements’ “Bastards Of Young”, makes a more sterling, nostalgic case for Saturday night liberation, over dolorous synth glides, ‘70s acoustic strums and glints of glam electricity. “Meet me at the old meat market/When it’s said and done/Can I please make you come?” Kiedis hopes, till he’s carried home in the small hours, like a knight on his shield. Not every tune on this long album sticks. Still, it offers breezy, mature acceptance and enthusiasm for life.

Kiedis the unwillingly precocious, dope-smoking hippie child has grown into a man out of time


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters