tue 16/04/2024

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen

Album: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen

Stadium rock old-timers summon up a feast of West Coast guitar pop

The Grateful Hot Chili Dead

Does the world need to hear more from Red Hot Chili Peppers? Outside the bouncin’ bro’ fanbase, a regular consensus is that, despite being one of the biggest bands in the world, doing their global stadium rock thing – with free added funk! – achieving the highest level of commercial success, they're not of actual interest.

Then they release two very long albums within six months of each other, Return of the Dream Canteen being the second. Who the hell needs that? Turns out that anyone with an ear for joyously executed West Coast-flavoured pop-rock just might.

The twofold keys to its success may be the return to the fold of guitarist John Frusciante after a decade, and COVID lockdown, during which the band holed up and jammed out tune after tune, with no time limit and no specific goals or limitations. The cover of Return of the Dream Canteen is redolent of Sixties/Seventies West Coast rock groups, and, while the album doesn’t sound much like such bands (except maybe the postured but affecting late night blues-rock of “Carry Me Home”), there’s a similarly ebullient and catchy sense of freedom.

Musical touchstones along the way might be Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Hall & Oates, The Eagles, Roxy Music and, time and again, the Scissor Sisters. Which is to say this is a defiantly pop album, dipped deep in airy, Seventies-into-early-Eighties L.A., especially on the floaty, harmonised backing vocals of songs such as the deliciously nostalgic “Eddie” or the sax solo at the end of “Cigarette”.

This isn’t to say there’s no fire in the belly. Frusciante musters scorching Crazy Horse-ish guitar when called for, such as turning the scatting, playfully jolly jazz-funk “Afterlife” into something more visceral – and their punk origins surface too, as on “Bag of Grins”, vaguely akin to Los Angeles punkers X. It’s mostly very catchy – check the chorus of “Drummer”, a wittily done snapshot of existential crises taking place in the nightworld (“The drummer is leaning without any meaning outside of the Club Troubadour”).

Bespattered with chewy intriguing lyrics from Anthony Kiedis that touch on everything from his loneliness (the surprisingly touching love song “La La La La La La La La”) to, of course, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, it would still have benefited from a few of its 17 songs being cut (especially the more typical Chili Peppers-by-numbers such as "Copperbelly" and the single "Tippa My Tongue"). For the most part, though, this is the sound of a tightly drilled, well-oiled unit loosening up and having a great deal of fun. It is thoroughly contagious.

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