Sound — 10
The Red Hot Chili Peppers began in chaos. A mish-mash of chaotic slap bass, funk guitar, pounding drums and wailing rap vocals. Over time though with the introduction of John Frusciante as guitarist and Chad Smith on drums the band has evolved into a more mature, melodic sound. Along with Anthony Keidis' continual vocal training the band has emerged with an album that is both beautiful and moving. The band takes a more elegant approach to songwriting this time around and as a result their sound has evolved into melody focused songs over intensely rhythm orientated songs. John Frusciante expands upon the type of guitar playing that was found on their mega-hit Under The Bridge from Blood Sugar Sex Magik and the lesser known song Savior from Californication. John Frusciante plays the largest role in the direction the band took in creating this album. His Hendrix influences have become even more prevalent and he writes a core amount of the songs found on By The Way, including most of the guitar progressions, bass lines and keyboards. This led to the dramatic change away from their signature rap-funk style that had preceded them. Many critics hailed By The Way as a masterpiece with Kimberly Mack stating "his warm, understated guitar work and his doo-wop style vocal harmonies are king this time around." Unfortunately not all critics shared the same enthusiasm with Piero Scaruffi calling the album "Too mainstream" and Blender magazine dubbing it "Californication 2".
Lyrics — 9
Anthony Keidis having had more formal vocal training at that point took the opportunity to showcase his ever evolving singing capabilities. what he illustrates is a softer, more gentle side of his vocals that fit well into the songs of By The Way while still retaining the energy and passion of previous successes. His lyrics delve deeper into self-reflection and we find that Anthony Keidis has quite a bit to share with the world. Songs like Venice Queen dig deep into this reviewers heart leaving one breathless and near tears at the sheer emotional intensity of such a song. Keidis having only been sober for a short time at the composition of this record found himself writing about narcotics, their harmful against his own body and soul and even references his inability to attend former RHCP guitarist Hillel Slovak's funeral due to his increasingly demanding drug addiction. Every experience, foul or success led to the culmination of those experiences which produced By The Way. With as interesting a life as Anthony Keidis has lead he found himself with no shortage of inspiring material.
Overall Impression — 10
At first listen I was disappointed to think that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had lost their passion, their fire, their creative intensity that had made them such a force to be reckoned with. But upon a second and third listen one begins to notice every little detail, the textured and layered guitars, the beautiful progressions, and poignant lyrical content. You begin to feel an intimacy with these four, a bond, insight into the shattered cores of these men. What they offer is a gaze into the lives of each member, painting a picture of trauma, addiction, and ultimately redemption. Each member speaks as loud as the lyrics in the tastefully elegant musicianship found on this record and despite the drastic change in sound one will still find something to appreciate whether they enjoy this record or not. Because even if you miss the old Chili Peppers, with Hillel and Irons, telling the tale of Yertle The Turtle, there's no denying that this album is something beautiful. With that in mind I dare you to listen and not be changed in some way. Even if for a moment you become lost in the trance of things, they have still succeeded; that very trance is what every musician dreams of. That is what makes not only this album phenomenal but The Red Hot Chili Peppers as a whole truly astounding.