Following 1999's quadruple platinum smash Californication, the Red Hot Chili Peppers return with By The Way, an album as soulful as ever, yet different from any of their previous releases. By The Way blends new rhythms, sounds and styles into the Red Hot Chili Peppers mix, resulting in one of the major new albums of the summer.
When the Red Hot Chili Peppers first appeared smeared in neon body paint with socks dangling precariously from their wieners, even the most faithful funk-metal convert couldn't have conceived they would be around some 20 years later, carrying on in much the same fashion. Despite a long history of tragedies and personnel upheavals, the California quartet's eighth album is mostly business as usual--and business, as usual, is quite good. The title track, "By the Way," is a powerful, bruised piece of slap-bass and intermediary white-boy rapping. "Universally Speaking" pays sweaty, soulful tribute to singer Anthony Kiedis's hometown of Detroit. And "Lemon Trees on Mercury" sounds eerily like it could have been lifted from 1984's Freaky Styley
. The band's reliable eclectic side, meanwhile, surfaces on the Latin-flavored "Cabron" and moody "Venice Queen." But the biggest surprise is "Tear," a masterful homage to the Beach Boys that suggests the Chili Peppers' perpetual state of arrested development may someday lift. --Aidin Vaziri