Album review – By the Way

by Benny

The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s classic album By the Way is eleven years old as I write this. How the time flies.

It was released during my second to last year of schooling and has since become a personal favourite amongst others in my CD stack. At a time when previous Chili albums were hot items being passed around by classmates, By the Way became the latest to enter the fray. Blood Sugar, One Hot Minute and Californication were all great pressings that had made their rounds, defining the boys who would branch off from the others that were listening to dance and pop. Dance-Pop. And not loved by all, that was for sure. It is a real genre, look it up.

First let’s jump back to the mid-nineties for a second. The internet. It did not exist. It did not exist as we know it today, correctly. Back then, obtaining new music wasn’t as simple as a few clicks of a few torrents, no. 56k dial up was mainstream then – one mp3 would have taken approximately half an hour to download. So, for myself and perhaps a few others, radio was king. The Top 40 just after dinner was the bomb. Out came our blank cassettes and recorders, and trigger-finger ready on the REC button, we waited through an hour or two of music to tape the ones we loved. Well I did anyway. 2002. Disc burning. Media and burners were expensive so in short, if you received a copy of an album for free, you took it.

Anyway I obtained my copy of By the Way, and it was unlike anything the Chilis had done before. Gone were the punk-funk fusion tracks of old, and in were the sweet new melodies of Frusciante and Kiedis. The album as a whole feels like a soothing lullaby. Uptempo beats on both By the Way and Can’t Stop are the only two tracks that really wake you from the serenity. You get a real insight into a more personal and relaxed Chili Peppers here. My highlight track is Dosed. The fact that Can’t Stop and Zephyr Song were omitted from the greatest hits collection always baffled me, and as a result I prefer By the Way over it.

I have since learned that there were creative differences between Frusciante and Flea on this album, as the latter had preferred to include signature funk tracks – ones which were largely removed. Creative control has always been a band-breaker. Despite this, great music flourished nonetheless and we are left with a raw, intimate classic. It may not sound like traditional Chilis to some, it may even put you to sleep at times – it happened to me. Simply wake from your slumber and press play once more. This one grows on you.

Please, if you get the time go enjoy the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ masterpiece By the Way.