Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Californication’ turns 20

by Chloe Berger

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Californication’ turns 20

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner Bros. Records · June 8, 1999

Californication encapsulates everything that the Red Hot Chili Peppers represent stylistically as a band.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always challenged the conventions of rock music. With almost a dozen studio albums, they have had much opportunity to experiment with their sound and influence on rock music as a whole. The Peppers’ early years are a classic representation of rock band turbulence in their almost constant replacement of band members and shared hardships such as drug addiction. These challenges and different viewpoints offered by a slew of band members have encouraged the band to evolve and learn a large variety of musical styles over the course of many of their first albums. However, the negative elements of their ensemble continued to escalate to a point where the group almost went their separate ways for good… until Californication, the band’s seventh studio album. Released in 1999, this album saved the Red Hot Chili Peppers and helped them solidify their sound as a band for years to come by encapsulating everything that they represent stylistically as a band. This album was able to take the many different styles of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that were curated over the years and blend them into one cohesive entity.

The band was originally innovative in their style of rock music by incorporating funk into their songs. Complex bass lines and rhythmic vocals defined their unique approach to rock. Even more interestingly, many of their songs incorporated a funk rap into their verses which became a distinctive element of their music. This style was carried over to Californication in a few songs such as “Get on Top,””, “Purple Stain”, and “Right on Time” with their unpredictable bass lines and fast rap by lead singer Anthony Keidis. The funk rap, however, is one element of their music that has not held up as well today, because the current development of rap in our culture overshadows this earlier attempt at it. Additionally, since the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a rock band, a main element to focus on is their incorporation of general conceptions of rock in their songs. Most songs on the album employ punk and metal influences, featuring convoluted electric guitar riffs and pounding drums. Songs such as “Around the World,” “Easily” and “Savior” exemplify this through their aggressive and driving instrumentations. Finally, a component of most Red Hot Chili Pepper songs that is more heavily emphasized on this album as opposed to others is their melodic structure. Many of the songs on Californication have very well-constructed melodies that couple with the guitar and bass to create a more alternative sound to the songs. Tracks such as “Scar Tissue,” “Other Side” and “Californication” are built upon their repetitive melodies and simpler instrumentation that give them a more alternative sound and set the band up for future work in this style.

The lyricism of this album is also what makes it very unique. To most listeners, the lyrics pretty much seem like nonsense. Lines such as “A teenage bride with a baby inside getting high on information” and “Earthquakes are to a girls guitar, they’re just another good vibration” may seem to have no purpose to some, but since these lyrics can be so vague, they are really up to the interpretation of the listener which truly makes this album art and the seminal classic that it is.

Californication is a remarkable album for the Red Hot Chili Peppers because it is built upon the connection and reform of not only their sound and style but of the group dynamic as a whole. The three styles represented are weaved throughout the album in such a way that they don’t seem separate from one another, they define who the Red Hot Chili Peppers are.

Listen to Californication: