Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen review: Badly in need of an editor

 (Clara Balzary)
(Clara Balzary)

“We just want to leave ‘em wanting less,” drummer Chad Smith has said about the 13th Red Hot Chili Peppers album. He was joking, but seriously, how much of a fan do you need to be to wade through two 17 track albums in the space of six months? This collection follows swiftly on from Unlimited Love, which was generally regarded as a return to form when it went to number one around the world in April. But not since the 28-song monster that was Stadium Arcadium in 2006 has the band been so badly in need of an editor.

We can blame the veteran Californian quartet’s desire to flood the world with funk rock on a couple of factors: they’re understandably enthusiastic after welcoming guitarist John Frusciante back into the foursome after 16 years away. He’s played on all their most popular albums, including Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication, and is given plenty of space to wrestle with his instrument here, offering long, wild solos towards the end of Eddie (a tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen) and Afterlife. Thanks to his comeback they were filling stadiums for the first time in almost two decades this summer.

Quantity over quality is also unfortunately perceived to be the way to make music pay in the streaming era. If fewer people are buying hard copies of an album and instead paying tiny amounts per play online, it makes financial sense to give them more songs to click.

But while Flea can provide taut basslines until the cows come home, and Frusciante can become impressively loud on raw songs such as Carry Me Home and Reach Out, it appears singer Anthony Kiedis can’t cope with having to write this many lyrics. Always one for stream-of-consciousness babble, he’s surely just going for the first rhyme that occurs on songs such as Bella: “I want her so badly/Hell no, my name ain’t Bradley.” One song is simply called La La La La La La La La.

Memorable melodies are hard to come by too, which means that the songs that stand out most are the ones that don’t sound like yet more generic Chili Peppers funk jams. My Cigarette is nicely spooky with its stark electro beats and a jerky little sax solo. Next time, hopefully they’ll wait a little longer for real inspiration to strike.