“Somebody has to come and teach me self-control,” sings Anthony Keidis toward the end of the deafening jazz-funk odyssey Aquatic Mouth Dance. It’s the third of a grueling 17 tracks on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 12th album, which promises a lot Boundless love but delivers unlimited noodles instead. I’ve used the term “noodles” for years, but never has music reminded me so vividly of soft, mild carbohydrates being relentlessly squirted into ribbon strings and falling lifeless onto a kitchen counter. The effect is mainly caused by Flea’s bass lines, which feel less played than extruded. But Keidis’ free-associative lyrics, coupled with returning guitarist John Frusciante’s headless chicken riffing, add little gravy to this limp dish.
For the first time since 2014, the Los Angeles groovesters have teamed up with producer Rick Rubin, who hung his beard over the mixing desk for the first time on their seminal 1991 album. Blood Sugar Sex Magic. The record included era-defining punk-funk hits like “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away”; Rubin stayed with them for their next five albums. Interviewed on last year’s Chris Jericho podcast, he said the band’s strength lies in the sheer volume of songs they write – but admitted he doesn’t necessarily know how to “fix” their mass of material. In this case, he seems to have just hit record and let them jam until their batteries died. They certainly haven’t recaptured the energy of the ’90s.
It gets harder and harder to separate the tracks in the great unwinding of this record. But I’ll do my best: It starts with the nicely sloshing guitar riffing of “Black Summer”. The mood is initially so comfortable sundowners-on-the-beach that one can overlook Keidis’ gentle ramblings about platypuses and cremations. But things get duller when the bass and drums burst in. There’s a solid punch and rapper rhythm on “Here Ever After.” And then the top of Flea’s toothpaste tube pops off and he begins squeezing out the thick, muddy jazz of “Aquatic Mouth,” complete with tinny drool. Slower and slightly proggy, “Not the One” has the most memorable melody on the record, with a dreamy panpipe synth line and a lovely liquid piano part. Keidis even makes the rare effort to tell an actual story by singing, “Give me the love and I’ll tell you when to run.”
But then we’re back to noodles with Poster Child, and Keidis sounds like he’s spent the afternoon coming up with rhymes for a year’s worth of random Wordle solutions. In a recent interview, he said so during recording Boundless lovehe decided that “If [a lyric] came to me, it’s in the song. Next.” That approach was reportedly because he “didn’t have the luxury of editing or censoring his words.” That seems odd for a platinum-selling band that can probably afford more than a few hours of studio time. I suppose the inexplicably loyal Peppers fans have gotten used to it by now and will happily nod along as Keidis asks, “Will you be my traffic jam? Spirographic anagram…” like he does on “One Way Traffic.”
I suspect they’ll also be happy to headbang to Frusciante’s circular solo on “Great Apes” and bang their steering wheels to “The Heavy Wing’s” lazy drum patterns, designed to mimic “a restless wolverine.” Because if there’s one thing about this album (on and on) it’s that it sure fits the brand. It’s just smoother and slower and sloppier than before.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/reviews/red-hot-chili-peppers-review-unlimited-love-b2047977.html Red Hot Chili Peppers Review, Unlimited Love: The rock band’s batteries are drained on this lifeless album