On April 1, California rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) released their 12th studio album, Unlimited Love. Though it didn’t quite live up to a few of their more famous LPs, such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Californication, it is a great set of tracks that revisits the band’s older sound.
Part of what makes this album so successful is the return of guitarist John Frusciante, who left the band for the second time after Stadium Arcadium was released in 2006. Many critics, including Rolling Stone writer Brittany Spanos, attributed the success of the album to Frusciante. With the guitarist back in the fold, RHCP’s sound is much more grounded and has a heavier funk influence than their previous few albums, which drew criticism for losing their powerful tempo.
The album starts off strong with “Black Summer,” which was pre-released in February. The song has all the elements of a classic RHCP song, but the melody is drowsier than their typical sound. It picks up the pace, however, building progressively before coming to a rather abrupt ending. It makes for a perfect introduction to the rest of the album, which returns to the funky, psychedelic vibe that the band is known and loved for.
Unlimited Love consists of 17 tracks that range in tempo and emotion. While each song still feels like a throwback to their ’90s hits, it’s clear that their sound has matured. One of the best tracks on the album, “She’s a Lover,” — which gave the album its title — is groovy and upbeat. In the track, it’s clear in lead singer Anthony Kiedis’s voice that he’s having fun with it, making the lyrics sound flirty and playful.
However, this isn’t to imply that all the tracks are upbeat and lighthearted. Kiedis is famous for writing nonsensical lyrics, however poetic they might be, but a few of the songs have a much more melancholic instrumentation. One of these songs is “Veronica,” which is a slower tempo, and the vocals are emotional, bordering on a whine. The chorus repeats the lyrics, “Danger, danger/Everyone goes for a ride/Danger, danger/Everyone loses their mind,” conveying an odd sense of desperation.
Arguably the best song on the album is the second-to-last track “The Heavy Wing,” with its catchy guitar-riff intro and heavy drums. Frusciante takes over the lead vocals for the chorus, which changes the sound entirely. He has a gravelly voice that matches the classic-rock genre, though Kiedis’s higher pitched and wavering voice is part of what makes the RHCP’s sound distinct from other rock bands.
Disappointingly, the last track on the album, “Tangelo,” is a bit of a letdown for an album closer. While there are no bad songs on Unlimited Love, this one does not stand out, as the lyrics have an awkward cadence and the instrumentals are bland. The last 38 seconds are white noise, which is an interesting artistic choice, but it would have been more satisfying to end the album in a way that better matches the rest of the album’s energy.
Overall, Unlimited Love is definitely worth the listen, providing fans with a set of songs reminiscent of their older releases.