Having survived years of line up changes, genre evolutions, deaths, and drug addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers are set to release their 11th album, The Getaway this week.
To celebrate, we attempt the impossible, and rank their 10 incredibly diverse albums so far from best to worst.
1o. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1984
There’s incredibly mixed feelings towards this album. Sure, it received a reasonable amount of airplay that helped the Peppers circulate their name and cultivate a fan base, but it was also a bit of a flop. The band were disappointed in the production and final mix of the album, and middling chart results did little to boost morale.
Andy Gill, then producer for Red Hot Chili Peppers, pushed towards a clear sounding, easy yet sterile production while the band sought to create an album that was as frantic as their live shows. The album is notable however for being the only one with guitarist Jack Sherman, as Hillel Slovak, the band’s original guitarist and founding member, re-joined the band for their next album.
Single: ‘True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes’
Underrated Gem: ‘Out In LA’
9. Freaky Styley, 1985
If the first album was lacking in funk, then the second delivered in spades, thanks to the addition of producer and funk-master George Clinton.
Unlike when recording The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band had a strong chemistry with Clinton, resulting in their funkiest album ever. Being under the wing of Clinton, the band were encouraged to let loose and have fun with this album. This did however lead to a slight lack of direction and focus within the band, creating an album that was ‘too rock for funk fans, and too punk for funk fans’.
The overall album is pretty damn weird, which was great for those who embrace this style, but ended up alienating a lot of fans. Whatever your opinion however, there’s no denying the crazy creativity behind Freaky Styley.
Single: ‘Catholic School Girls Rule’
Underrated Gem: ‘Blackeyed Blonde’
8. I’m With You, 2011
After working together since Blood Sugar Sex Magik, this is the final collaboration between Red Hot Chili Peppers and producer, Rick Rubin. It also marks the first album since John Frusciante’s departure in 2009, with the band welcoming young guitarist and previous protégé Josh Klinghoffer on board.
I’m With You cops a lot of unearned scorn. Yes, we all know John Frusciante is amazing but let’s stop the “not Frusciante” hate. Klinghoffer is different, but good. As Flea said, “Josh came in and does what Josh does in a beautiful way”.
It is indisputable that this album captures the feel Red Hot Chili Peppers have had since Californication, but it doesn’t particularly standout as their better albums do. It’s an easy listen, but not a particularly unique one.
I will be curious to see how much of a likeness the new album will have to this particular one, especially now that Josh Klinghoffer is more of a seasoned member within the band and willing to experiment more with his own sounds.
Single: ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’
Underrated Gem: ‘Factory of Faith’
7. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, 1987
This album was the first to be recorded with all four original members, and finally gave the band the chance to hit the sound they’d been desperately trying to create. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan is the album where the Peppers really started kicking into gear.
To some ears the album can get tiresome quick if the fusion of funk, punk, and rock with rap vocals is not your thing. For those looking to see the initial core of Red Hot Chili Peppers however, this is an essential listen… probably not the first album you should spin if you’re trying the band out for the first time, but a good listen if you’re slowly developing an appreciation.
Single: ‘Fight Like A Brave’
Underrated Gem: ‘Organic Anti-Beat Box Band’
6. Stadium Arcadium, 2006
Two words; Dani California. This is the album that started a new wave of Chili Peppers fandom, and introduced a lot of younger fans to the band. ‘Dani California’ is one of those songs that everyone, from all walks of life, has heard.
A major downside to this album is its length. There’s no argument here that the song writing and vocals on this album open the band to a wider audience, however, the 28 track double album would have been more memorable and successful had more than half of the album been cut down.
Recommended if you’re a first time listener wanting to get into Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you’re not exactly a fan of vocals that are barely audible and music that isn’t so structured, start with this and then work backwards.
Single: ‘Dani California’
Underrated Gem: ‘Wet Sand’
5. One Hot Minute, 1995
So the post-Frusciante era begins. Dave Navarro brought his heavy metal guitar influence into the band, changing the sound substantially from the previous albums (funk metal? Anyone?). Admittedly there’s quite a lot of hate when talking about this album, especially from those hardcore Frusciante fans.
I have to admit that I used to be one of those people too, but then I realised something; One Hot Minute was probably the fuel that started what Red Hot Chili Peppers are today. A lot of the album’s hate is not only that Frusciante had left, but that the Peppers had grown and become a different unit from what they began as. Gone were the party-raging, sexually geared sounds that the band were known for, and in came darker and more nuanced styles. This caused a rift within the fan base, with some listeners giving up on the band whilst others rolled happily with the changes.
If the band had never jammed with Navarro, then perhaps they never would have become who they are today – for better or for worse.
Underrated Gem: ‘Pea’
4. Mother’s Milk, 1989
This might be just a personal perspective, but I always see Mother’s Milk as the album that warmed the band up for Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Mother’s Milk saw the introduction of what appears to be the most favoured Red Hot Chili Peppers lineup to date, though we can argue that if it was not for the late Hillel Slovak, none of this would be. The album has memorable and catchy songs that feel like the foreplay leading up to the incredible Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
Single: ‘Knock Me Down’
Underrated Gem: ‘Sexy Mexican Maid’
3. By The Way, 2002
Similarly to the later Red Hot Chili Peppers albums, By The Way is very easy listening for casual fans and is typical of what you would think of when you think ‘new’ Peppers, while still staying true to their roots. By The Way is also their most melodic album, largely thanks to John Frusciante and his beautiful backing vocals.
Single: ‘By The Way’
Underrated Gem: ‘Midnight’
2. Californication, 1999
Californication is the album where everyone went “Yay, John’s back!” It had a great songs, great flow and is probably the album that most confidently links together both old and new Red Hot Chili Peppers. This album ranks higher than By The Way only because it feels more self-confident and has a clearer focus than the former which gets a bit lost in its back half.
Californication is the perfect combination of old Peppers and new Peppers, to the point it could please all old fans, new fans, and casual listeners. When the Peppers perform in concert, a good bulk of this album will be heard during the set, and for good reason.
Single: ‘Around The World’
Underrated Gem: ‘Parallel Universe’
1. Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991
Enough with the battle of ‘old vs new’ Red Hot Chili Peppers. There is no battle here! Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the epitome of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career and sound. This IS Red Hot Chili Peppers; the perfect balance of funk, punk, and rock with fun yet strangely poetic lyrics and memorable riffs.
This is the album that solidified the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ name in music. Although Californication ended up selling more, without Blood Sugar Sex Magik there would be no Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Single: ‘Under The Bridge’
Underrated Gem: ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’
I am a bass-thundering and word-writing lover of music; especially of tunes with an old school rock and metal feel (I'll even throw in a bit of 70's disco while we are at it, can't forget about a good groove!). I spend most of my time either playing music, or writing about music. Find me on Instagram @jacintajacintajacintaView all posts by Jacinta Jaye