Friday, September 29, 2006

Stadium Arcadium

First, the ground rules:
1. I'll review anything I damn well feel like. I don't care if it's new or old or mainstream or so indie that it hurts you that I found them first or anything else.
2. I don't really care if you agree with me about any of this really. It's my blog, i'm the critic, fuck you. (Always wanted to say that, and boy it feels good.) But seriously, i'd love to hear your thoughts on what I say, and that's why comments are fully enabled.
3. Your iPod probably has more songs than mine. You probably have been to more shows than me. You probably know Thom Yorke or got Hep C from Steven Tyler or have had a member of Blink 182 stick his head under your skirt. I'm not really concerned with how much I know vs. how much you know. I'm hoping this will become a nice little co-op music utopia where anyone who reads it can say "oh, if you liked that CD, then you'll love this one." or provide some other material that will be beneficial. That's my hope anyway.

Backstory: My mom bought me RHCP's Blood Sugar Sex Magik for Christmas in the 6th grade. I opened it and was excited to listen to it when my mom noticed that there were mostly naked men wearing only tube socks on the back of the album and that the word "sex" was also printed where my young pupils could take it in. Obviously mom put a lot of though into that gift because it caught her completely by surprise and she took it back to the store. A few years later I had the album but I had kind of passed it by. I knew the singles but didn't get into the deep cuts until after I graduated from high school. Still, I picked up every subsequent album at the beginning of every summer (for some reason, their CDs always come out in the summer.) And almost every song on every CD reminds me of something Wyoming, Montana or Canada related. (Meanwhile Suck my Kiss reminds me of walking around CU's campus in Boulder because I thought it was funny and in your face to sing it out loud while walking in large crowds of people.)
I honestly thought that Stadium Arcadium would blow. After the overhype and radio-ization of Dani California, I thought that RHCP had finally kicked the bucket and had become content to make poppy single and move on with their lives. That was a piss-poor assumption and the reason I don't listen to the radio. Thanks to iTunes, you can just delete Dani California and listen to the rest of the album unfettered. In fairness, however, Dani California is pretty much all you could ask for out of a Track 1, Side 1, so that's the last bad thing I'll say about this album.
Starting with track 2, this is one of their best CDs ever. And that's a pretty big deal. John Frusciante is absolutely stunning on this album. As a former bass player, i've always caught myself listening to Flea's bass lines and those have pretty much driven every album, up until now. Not to take anything away from Flea, who is still as good as ever, but Frusciante's guitar absolutely moves this album. I could go on and on, but I won't.
The hottest song on this album is "Make you Feel Better" because it just absolutely jams. Now that it's getting cooler in PHX, I dare you to roll down your windows on the freeway at night, play this song and NOT clap along with it. It's impossible, can't be done. When Flea's vocals come in on the 3rd verse, it's kind of a wet dream that you get to be awake for.
I've always liked songs that start slow and build up (G&R - November Rain, Weezer - Only in Dreams) and "Wet Sand" is pretty close to being one of those songs. The build-up at the end, with the afore-mentioned guitar and what sounds like an organ, and then launching off the solo with a prototypical Keidis scream. Well it's just a song that you want to hit repeat on.
This album really channels a cathartic feeling with it. I know the boys haven't had problems with drugs for a few albums but you really get the sense of good, solid happiness from the songs. Even the tunes with a heavier vibe such as "We Believe" have this uplifting feel to them, and that only comes from musicians who have been where those guys have been.
I really have to hand it to them. After all these years and all the albums (9), it would have been really easy for them to slap 12 tracks on a disk and let it sell platinum without much work and solely based on the name and the marketing. It would have been really easy for them to mail it in and support it with a half-assed stadium tour and go back home, but instead they come out with their first 2-disk set ever, with 27 really decent songs that Keidis himself called the best work they had ever done. And then they go on tour with Mars Volta, and they push themselves and they get better than I think they've ever been. To a guy like me, with the worst career ADD in the world, to stay singularly focused on making good creative music year after year is pretty impressive and something that we haven't seen in a long time, and with all likelihood in the state music is in these day, will never see again.

What Came First, the Music or the Misery?

Much like being a fireman or an astronaut, being a music critic has to be one of the coolest jobs possible. And it's one of those starving artist, stand in the back of the smokey club, i'm better than you, elitist, laptop in the messenger bag over the vintage jacket jobs that never pays well enough in cash but pays huge returns in stories and cool points and Almost Famous moments. Besides, maybe one day some major editor will read this and give me a job. Can't hurt right?
So here goes nothing.

(PS. Please leave suggestions for new bands, concerts, anything, in the comments section. I'll check them out. And i'd rather this be a forum than a soapbox.)