The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP), are an arena-filling rock band that are not only a staple of the rock genre, but a well-known name amongst both younger and older listeners alike. Their success and legacy, however, were not achieved overnight, and it took the release of 4 albums and various personnel changes before the band released its phenomenal landmark album Blood Sugar Sex Magik on September 24th 1991. It would become one of the defining rock albums of the 90s. Released against the backdrop of the early 90s grunge explosion, and on the same day as Nirvana’s Nevermind, the album went on to peak at number 3 on the billboard charts and go 7 times platinum, leaving an indeniable mark on the music industry.
Prior to recording the album, RHCP separated from their long-term label EMI and signed on with Warner Brothers. Furthermore, the renowned producer Rick Rubin, known for his proficiency across the musical spectrum, as seen with his successful work with Slayer and Run-D.M.C, was brought into the project. This proved a pivotal decision as Rubin did not bring with him a set out direction for the album, but maintained a constructive role that allowed the band for the first time to fully realise and capture on the album the vast abundance of their creative talent. This was a distinctive turning point for RHCP, as Rubin’s influence helped boil the band down to their roots of punk, rock, rap and funk which paved a road out of the entertaining college rock party anthems that littered their past albums, into the deeper and more mature song writing and musicianship that came to define the group. This created the perfect blend of genres that brought an entirely new sound to the alternative rock scene.
From the riotous guitar and bass of ‘Greeting Song’ to the socio-political lyrics of ‘Power of Equality’, the album boasts an eclectic mix of songs that vary in tempo and sound, keeping the album fresh and exciting throughout. The high points of this album mirror those of the most esteemed musicians at the zenith of their music making prowess. Frontman Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics on smash hit ‘Under the Bridge’ chronicle the destructive power and emotional drain of drug addiction whilst maintaining a triumphant and resolute determination to stay clean. Additionally, the relentlessly funky bass licks on the hit ‘Give it Away’ and the tribalistic percussion coupled with waves of drumming flurry on the melodic ‘Breaking the Girl’ demonstrate the uncompromising talent and ability of bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith. Furthermore, it’s on Blood Sugar Sex Magik where the majesty of guitarist John Frusciante is first displayed. Having joined the band at 18 years old to play on 1989s Mothers Milk, Frusciante finally had the time to creatively assimilate into the group. Whether it was his raunchy playing on the energetic ‘Suck My Kiss’, or meandering guitar licks on ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’ that complement the rolling bass tones, the masterful talent of Frusciante is made explicitly clear on this record. To gauge the love for the playing of Frusciante one must only look at the comment section of any RHCP YouTube video to see the legions of fans stating how his guitar work directly influenced or inspired their own playing.
The genius of Blood Sugar Sex Magik is that it’s so unique it is unimitable. A huge range of influential artists from Rage Against the Machine and Green Day to Kanye West have cited RHCP as an influence, and no album has better served to define their sound than this one, making it one of the best and most defining rock albums of the 90s. It captures a moment of inspirational, influential and virtuosic music that stands the test of time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik is available to listen to now via Warner Records. Check out ‘Under The Bridge’ down below.