By T.J. Grant, Staff Writer
“MAKE ME A FIST”
The simple image Anthony Kiedis conjures in the first line of “These Are the Ways” wouldn’t mean much coming from any other singer, or any other band. But Kiedis isn’t any other singer. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t just any other band.
The band’s newest album, Unlimited Love, came out just in time for summer. It’s their 12th studio LP and first release since 2016’s The Getaway.
The first single from Unlimited Love, “Black Summer,” came out in February along with a music video. “These Are the Ways'' debuted on March 31st — one day before the full album — as the second and final single.
AN UNUSUAL SUSPECT
At the tail end of last summer, word got out that there was new music on the horizon for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The person responsible for many of these rumors comes as a bit of a surprise. His name is Shampoolio (a.k.a Julio Romano), and he’s the barber of recently-returned lead guitarist John Frusciante. While in the barber’s chair, the guitarist shared details on the band’s unreleased material, his vaccination status, and even which guitar he used on the album (his 1962 Fender Stratocaster). This all spread swiftly by word of mouth and, of course, Reddit.
The magnitude of this leaking comes down to the fact that John Frusciante last worked with the Chili Peppers for their 2006 album Stadium Arcadium. Frusciante decided to leave the band in 2009, being replaced by Josh Klinghoffer until 2019.
For a whole decade, Chili Peppers’ fans have been patiently waiting for the mastermind guitarist to return, and now he finally has.
Frusciante is solely responsible for the sweet licks heard on everyone’s favorite RHCP songs, like “Under the Bridge,” “Californication,” and “Snow (Hey Oh).” He brings appropriate tone, intricate harmonies and vast musicality to the band’s foursome.
With “These Are the Ways,” Frusciante contributed a version of the melody which later became transformed by Kiedis. Kiedis told Apple Music: “I’m never able to recreate his melodies perfectly — he’s just on a different melodic level — so I usually put it through a simplification machine.”
Along with Frusciante, legendary producer Rick Rubin has rejoined the group for their newest release. The last time Rubin worked with the Chili Peppers was for I’m With You in 2011. He’s noted for producing their biggest successes and defining albums including Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication.
POLITICAL UNDERTONES OF “THESE ARE THE WAYS”
“These Are the Ways” is a neutral reflection on life in America, according to Anthony Kiedis. And like the melody, the contents and themes of the song aren’t overthought. However, the imagery within the music video overshadows the band’s apolitical stance.
The video, directed by Malia James, shows Kiedis stealing from a convenience store, being caught by police, and then chased by them through strangers’ bedrooms and backyards. This makes the band’s impartiality feel insincere.
Then again, considering the stenographic observations in the chorus’ lyrics, maybe RHCP really isn’t trying to make a statement. “These are the ways when you come from America. The sights, the sounds, the smells” doesn’t say a whole lot. But when paired with a divisive subject like law enforcement, it comes across as conflicted.
“FEELS LIKE COMING HOME”
Political or not, “These Are the Ways” features all the best parts of the Chili Peppers: drummer Chad Smith’s heavy-handed rimshots, Flea’s intuitive bass playing, Frusciante’s remarkable soloing, and, of course, Anthony Kiedis’ bombastic rhyming. As Rolling Stone writer Brittany Spanos noted in her review of Unlimited Love: “this album feels like coming home.” And that it does. Just like that, the Chili Peppers are back.
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