Showing posts with label Worst To Best. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worst To Best. Show all posts

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan, eh. I really like the guy. Consistent filmography. Hardly a hiccup in sight. One of the most dependable directors on the planet. Seems like a chill dude.

What it is that Chris (may I call him Chris?) has managed to achieve so well, is locating the ever-elusive clitoris situated between a mainstream formulated cinema appeal, and an intellectual tangle which prefers to ask the questions rather than answer them. More often than not, this complex technique of trickery guarantees a house full of smiling faces. Are you one of those people who enjoys spending their time alone, developing theories about inconspicuous details and then connecting them to some hypothetical Reddit argument you upvoted? Then you should find more than enough open-ended sources from Nolan’s endeavours to keep your fingers busy. On the other side, if you simply enjoy munching your popcorn at high speeds whilst dribbling your soda upon your lap and making remarks such as “woaaaah, look at those special effects, maaan!”, well, there’s something in there for you too.

It's no surprise to me that Nolan has made so much money over his career, because the guy totally deserves it. He’s worked hard and I’m proud of him. 10 films later, and he is one of the most acclaimed directors on the planet, grossing over $4.7 billion worldwide with 34 Oscar nominations and ten wins. That’s an average of $470 million, 3.4 Oscar nominations, and one Oscar win per every single film. Every single film! And here I am, getting excited when my Facebook status gets 10 Likes.

Your own love for Christopher Nolan will depend on your taste for the whole movie medium itself. If you prioritise well-written personalities over rich storytelling, then this director may not be for you, because in all honesty, his notable character developments are sporadic at best (in fact, the large majority of fictional individuals in Nolan's world are indecipherable from one another). However, if you enjoy a little confusion in your life, delivered via non-linear narratives and troubling flashbacks, forever lost within themes of obsession and psychological disorders and identity turmoil, then do yourself a favour, and watch all of his films. Again if needs be. That’s what I did, and look at me now. I’m writing a whole article on Christopher Nolan like I’m some fucking expert or something.

Ready? Here’s my worst to best of the man's directed features. And no matter what this list says, each and every piece of work on offer here was a pure inspiration to me. I just want to go outside and write movies with my brother Jonathan. Let’s ask that boy Hans Zimmer to sort out the score. That guy really knows what he is doing.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 10. The Dark Knight Rises

10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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Welcome back to Gotham City! Eight years after Batman’s former glory! And never has the absence of the Joker been so sorely evident as it is in this dismal curtain call. In all fairness, the city’s latest supervillain (the monstrous Bane) was the perfect character choice due to his vast differences from those who came before, but his distressingly humourless outlook on political themes weighed on the somewhat boring side, which caused me to mourn for the comedic relief of Ledger’s iconic role, more here than ever. Certainly, Hardy does an okay job. As does Bale within the very uncomplicated Batman role. As does Hathaway playing the much adored Catwoman. But these badly-written performances were not the movie’s primary dilemmas. Rather, the true difficulties came during the disorganised plot which tried to do too much too slowly, somehow not getting its act together in a whopping 165 minutes, all the while overwhelming us with an often deafening music score and indecipherable dialogue. Of course, fanboys have vigorously defended the flick to this very day, and they did have some points. Don't look at this as a film. Look at it as the final piece to DC’s greatest film run ever, and then you can't be too disappointed, right? Because, even at his worst, Nolan's foray into superherodom was still up there with the best.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 09. Interstellar

09. Interstellar (2014)

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What's that you say? A dystopian science fiction epic? Where Earth is dying? A group of space explorers have to go where no man has gone before? All to save humanity? What an original story! Regardless, this tired plot decorated with Kubrick fellatio quickly proves its worth, by singeing your retina and expanding the spaces between your cerebral lobes as one absolute technical masterpiece. The big budget special effects are monumental feats of visual stimulation while the conceptual designs and complexities of wormhole theories were evidently heavily researched, spinning in the infinity of space without losing its human touch. Remarkable! Awe-inspiring! Tremendous! Woweee! Unfortunately, repeated viewings of Interstellar were far less inspiring. The dominant problem came with this flick dressing itself up like some scholarly think-piece, which works until you actually think about it (in particular, the bootstrap paradox building a barrier around any worthwhile debate, but let's ignore that for now). What's more, those desperate heart-tugs poking at some mushy dynamic between unmemorable characters also fell short to me, as I found it impossible to emotionally invest in these individuals who were all utterly void of any defining personalities whatsoever. Like everyone, I admire Nolan for ambitiously stretching this film to its very limits (and the grandiose effort is undeniably yet another essential display of cinematic artistry), but it was far too big for its own fabric, and it tore, errors glaring through, blinding anyone who looked directly at it.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 08. Insomnia

08. Insomnia (2002)

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Insomnia was Nolan’s first studio feature, and after the immense success of Momento, it was a vital intersection in the director’s career. Was he going to validate his previous victory as a non-fluke? Or would the additional pressure topple the man over? Aware of the wager, Christopher took the safest route possible and opted to remake a 1997 Norwegian psychological thriller (same title) in a typical Hollywood crime style, complete with murder, cover-ups, sleep-deprivation, and guilt. To further secure a healthy box office stockpile, two of the most renowned actors that money could buy were hired to execute this cat-and-mouse device, namely Al Pacino being his usual enthralling self, and Robin Williams in one of his most subtly impressive (and underrated!) roles to date. In fact, this is some of the greatest acting you are ever likely to witness in any Nolan film, and the praise which followed was quick to state nothing less. However, there was still a problem: the plot itself. The story had a promising start by accomplishing a hefty dose of anxiety without relying on the director’s usual overblown intellectualism, but in the end, it was this very cautious lack of challenge which ultimately spiraled the piece into lower realms of predictability, now regarded as perhaps the most formulated flick in Christopher’s entire filmography. That said, I was not disappointed in the slightest, it's a very cool film, and I would watch it again maybe.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 07. Batman Begins

07. Batman Begins (2005)

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After the cartoonesque absurdity of Clooney’s syndicate threatened to capsize the entire Batman franchise forever, one may say Nolan’s job was a comparatively easy affair. Wisely opting to uproot the narrative and start from the very beginning, Batman Begins was just as the title promised: an origins story, completely standalone yet preparing us for a much more complex hero to come. This incarnation was perfectly suited for Bale’s quietly unsettling demeanor, and I was happy to revisit this classic protagonist as he trained himself up to protect Gotham against that scary Scarecrow villain. Nolan’s first ruling order was to throttle all excessive explosions, witty one-liners, flashy sparkles, goofy action sequences, and ludicrous gadgets right out of his baby, gone. He then restrained those stereotypical superhero elements into a much more down-to-earth neo-noir crime thriller, governed by darker storytelling, human characters, and a concentration on minute details rather than any of the overwhelming special effects from previous sequences. What happens next may surprise you: a groundbreaking delivery of comic book adaptations, influencing a fresh breed of more realistic, adult cinematic experiences which favoured a gloomy sincerity over any humorous cheap shots. And for that, I thank you, Chris. Almost instantaneously, people dubbed this effort as one of the greatest superhero flicks ever put together, without any idea of what was coming next.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 06. The Prestige

06. The Prestige (2006)

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Based on Christopher Priest's 1995 novel of the same name, the most notable achievement of this mystery thriller is that it delivers itself exactly like any magic trick would. The Prestige as a film is secretly the star of the whole performance, while the magician rivalry (adequately portrayed by Bale and Jackman) are merely props in their own show. Nolan has confirmed that the separate acts of this story were specifically ordered to mimic an illusionary device, of which this clever idea conned an elaborate aura of wizardry into every scene, distracting us with mind puzzles and magnificent reveals, oblivious to the two lead characters as they battle it out for magic dominance. Also, David Bowie is Nikola Tesla for today, just for your records. Moving on, and much like any worthwhile sleight of hand trick, it’s impossible to dissect the contents without spoiling the surprises for those using fresh eyes. However, I will say this: The Prestige is a good movie, but not a great movie. It's a spectacle of imaginative entertainment which tangles itself up in its own complex web of deception, and more often than not, yells the word “surprise!” a touch too enthusiastically. No one would call this Nolan’s most disappointing offering, of that I’m sure, but I certainly would understand the argument of it being one of his most forgettable.

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Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 05. Following

05. Following (1998)

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And here we have Nolan’s debut feature, a non-linear neo-noir crime thriller about a struggling writer who gets mixed up in the arts (and obsessions) of thievery. By all means, it’s a conventional story in comparison to the director’s latter-day explosions, but with a mere $6,000 budget to its name, the true exhilaration came from Christopher Nolan himself, as he desperately attempted to unleash his intensely ambitious prowess against such suffocating restrictions. Without the crutch of an expensive Hollywood gleam, this film was oiled up with a heavy black and white slick, lubricating the mysterious smarts to speed along at a nimble pace, cramming the quick ride with sharp objects until it reached a maximum capacity, and then pouring everything directly into your belly until you were satisfied despite the meal's overall modesty. Additional admiration must also be handed to the convincing performances offered by the actors themselves, who were not only all unknowns back then, but are still unknown to this very day somehow. Regardless (and according to various respected sources), Following is one of the greatest no-budget movies ever made, and its neglected position in Nolan’s remarkable filmography is an unforgivable injustice. If you take nothing else from this review, know that the man’s genius is, at times, more evident here than on any other project, because it’s almost inconceivable that he achieved what he did with what he had.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 04. Memento

04. Memento (2000)

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When analysing the ingenuity of Memento, one needs to highlight a few things. Like how this is only Nolan’s second feature film. Or how excellent the choice was to cast Guy Pearce, as his lack of high profile celebrity would be unable to dominate any of the hyperactive chatter. Or how the neo-noir psychological thriller was not only overly-smart but also profoundly tragic without losing an element of subtle humour throughout. I mean, just as a written summary, a feat of daring inventiveness is revealed, by introducing a vengeful man hunting for his wife’s killers, running its narrative flat-out by using two connected storylines: one proceeding forwards, while the other worked in reverse, accentuating the main character’s severe case of anterograde amnesia. After a description like that, your sphincter is already preparing itself for the insertion of puzzle pieces, while the doctor politely asks, "Would you mind sorting this out for me?". And sort it out, you will. Long after the film has ended. And that, above all else, is what you’ve got to respect Nolan for. It's the fact that most men would have tripped themselves up during the very first stages of developing dual timelines which would speak the same adventure coming from opposite directions, why would anyone do that to themselves? And yet, somehow, this director holds our attention and rewards our persistence so delightfully that the end result was an instantaneous success from all corners, often lauded as Christopher's crowning achievement. It has even been preserved by the National Film Registry in 2017, which they tell me is a good thing.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 03. Dunkirk

03. Dunkirk (2017)

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Take a War World II script about allied soldiers struggling to survive the frustrating death trap of a beach surrounded by Nazis. Then hand this true story to a man notorious for birthing psychologically complexities and unresolved narratives out of thin air. Stir well, and what do you get? Nothing less than an over-the-top war film of epic proportions with high budget bombs bursting your brain open and soldiers with uncontrollable mental disorders snapping at a moment's notice, of course! Except, Dunkirk was nothing like that. Rather, it was a backstory-less, Hollywood-less, (almost) dialogue-less, (basically) CGI-less masterpiece, which boasted subtleties and reservations without ever choking on the boring bullet. And how did it achieved such a unique feat? By dropping you in the middle of an intensely streamlined documentary atmosphere, intended to accurately portray war as an honest character itself, not some celebration of high-speed adrenaline explosions nor an immoral praise for so-called historic heroes whose actions deserve anything but. Truthfully, Dunkirk is an indescribable piece (it would be difficult to even spoil it), other than agreeing with those critics who called it one of the greatest war films ever made. Yes, Hans Zimmer outdid himself. Yes, Harry Styles was just fine. But it was our director, now functioning at maximum confidence, who surprisingly shone through as the least Nolany version of Nolan yet.

Click here to witness Ammr and Jared’s live-action review of Dunkirk (filmed while drunk)!

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 02. The Dark Knight

02. The Dark Knight (2008)

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I’m just going to talk about the Joker for a minute, do you mind? For here we have arguably the most complex character in all of the comic book universes, with so many ways to interpret the intricate madness that the vastly diverse cinematic variations of the supervillain are only tied together by name alone. And yet, from Nicholson’s creepy blueprint right until Leto’s dismal miscarriage, none corrupted the maniacal psychopathy quite as troubling as Heath Ledger did. Delivering his chaotic anarchy beneath a grungy demeanor, the on-screen deterioration of this Joker’s sanity was so realistic, that it ultimately killed the actor himself, haunting the film with a deeper core of tragic sadness. However, from an artistic perspective, it was the perfect way to go, undeniably Ledger’s peak performance, while he leads the pack as the deepest character Nolan has ever told (even winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, the first comic-book movie actor to ever do so). That said, while Joker dominates all conversation, the film itself was deserving of the performance, as a superhero movie except with all of the superhero trademarks furiously blackened out, redefining the formula of good vs. evil vs. everything in-between (hey, Two-Face). And then, there it was. The greatest flick in the superhero genre, period. It still makes anything that Marvel has done look like a children's candy store surrounded by protective guardians just in case someone chokes.

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 01. Inception

01. Inception (2010)

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Inception as a concept is enough to evoke a restless enthusiasm in your little vibrating knees, with Leo and his team exploring the possibilities of extracting information from the human mind during their dream states. And yet, it’s the balance within this neo-noir science fiction heist film which truly lifts it as Nolan’s absolute crowning work. The action is intense, the visuals are unrivaled, and the human dynamic between this all-star cast successfully glues the complicated premise together, stacking layers upon layers of intellect on top of your mind, demanding that your full attention is invested otherwise you will surely be buried beneath its surrealistic abstractions forever, wake up. Not even the most extreme Nolan antagonists (Nolantagonists?) could ever accuse him of any ambition deficiency, but Inception is three levels up, so meticulously detailed that it took the man around ten years to develop, cautiously explaining his perplexing plans adequately without spoon-feeding anyone, requiring you to do some of the work, let’s meet halfway. And then like a dream, it weaved through your head long after the credits had rolled, rewarding repeated visits, and giving hope to modern cinema as effortlessly one of the best movies of the decade. Maybe even the best. It’s the perfect film within the perfect film within. And there is nothing else like it.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers

“I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” ― Nick Cave

Writing this article seemed like a good idea at first, but when I finally stepped back and hesitated to question what exactly I was doing, it was already too late. I think I may have made a mistake.

Red Hot Chili Peppers have become the punchline to a joke about the embarrassing state of dadrock meeting the unfashionable stupidity of mainstream audiences, hahaha, so funny! It’s way cooler to dislike RHCP now than it is to like them, the trendy kids won't read this article, which was about the realisation that drowned my brain in its own insecurities. I was gambling all of my credit chips on a band I wasn't actually allowed to enjoy! What was I doing here? I mean, there is no denying that these musical figureheads had followed me my whole life for better or worse (their debut album was released during my birth year, in fact), but perhaps this longstanding relationship blurred my usually sound judgment? This art had raised me like they were my parents, which could mean that my adoration and respect may have stemmed from a place of conditioning, right? Did this band even have enough depth to withstand the hours of digging from my article's analysis-spade? Could I conjure up an adequate amount of eloquent words to describe such a commercial outfit that every publication in existence has already described at unreasonable lengths? The answer was probably not.

Unfortunately, my boots were in the thick of the mud as I had already created the above lead image, and it looked fucking sick, so what choice did have? I closed my eyes, and I trawled onward, burdened by a backpack of self-doubt and wet sandwiches, my hands reaching out to hopefully rediscover some former appreciation within the cracks of their entire discography. And that's when I turned one corner and walked directly into my old buddies again, hey! Wow, it was so good to see them! They seemed really well, and they welcomed me with open arms of love and warmth, taking off that backpack and carrying it for me, as they spoke about their history and their influences and their integrity while I just listened. My soul recharged and my associations realigned themselves. Oh yes, I belong here.

Let me explain something to you. Red Hot Chili Peppers have been through more hardships than almost any other band I can think of, with an unstable line-up of at least 14 musicians coming and going, usually because they were completely preoccupied with needles, stabbing holes into their veins then stuffing their systems full of cement flavoured opiates, to the point that a man died once. And yet, within these tragedies, the Chilis never lost sight of their organic spiritual appreciation for life itself. This is important because we are so often bombarded with art which collects stones in its pockets and then jumps into freezing cold water, despite the fact that the father artists have never experienced true misfortunes. Those palettes did not earn that colour of inspiration! The Peppers, however, are drenched by this agonising form of source material and yet they chose to spin these traumas into sunshine socks of positivity, placing them over their cocks and then fucking barely legal girls with them. And that is where their unparalleled magic thrives. From teenage pussy. Oh my God, I remember all of this now.

No self-respecting individual would ever label this band as one of profound intellect or articulated wisdom, but what RHCP can teach you extends far beyond clever wording. There is a true understanding of life to be found within these fruits, more so than any other band, where a connection to Mother Nature's core energy can develop into a telepathic chemistry between you and other human beings. In order to unlock these achievements, all you need to do is what the Red Hot Chili Peppers do, which is dance. Dance against any odds which the universe may roll to oppose you, and share your space with those you love. There should be no leaders in your friendships, rather an aura of security where ideas can be freely jammed out, liberated from judgment or preciousness, allowing the improvisational hands of allies to meddle with your artistic expressions, harnessing the abundant fertility of unrestrained collaboration and collective imagination. It may also help that their members have often included some of the best rock musicians the world has ever seen.

The numbers don’t lie. 80 million records sold. Six Grammys won. 13 number-one singles. 25 top-tens. 85 weeks at number one in total. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Officially the most successful alternative rock band in history who accomplished all of this by fusing themselves with funk and rap and metal and pop, which is not a mixture that happens by accident. Rather, this only happens when you die and come back to life so many times that you are probably immortal, point proven that this outfit are still going. I address you now, the reader, and assure you that little kids will be asking you about this band when you get older, which is why I implore you to turn your back on those hip friends who refuse to acknowledge RHCP's greatness. These guys are legends. Rockstar royalty. There is no shame in admitting this, let it all go. Be proud of your feelings. You love the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and you know you do. You've intentionally watched their music videos to the end. You've danced by yourself like Anthony Kiedis before. You’ve had some of the best times of your life with their music playing in the background. Never forget what they have done for you. Here are all their albums, ranked from worst to best.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 11. The Red Hot Chili Peppers

11. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)


Like any undiscovered outfit who’s trying to offensively elbow their way to the top of some pyramid of recognition, the Chili’s debut wasn’t exactly the most effortless of projects. Founding pepper Hillel Slovak was absent due to other commitments (desensitising the revolving musician idea far too early in their career), and the lifeless production from Andy Gill fell short, unable to capture the live, youthful spirit which got the Chilis signed in the first place. This left us with one jammy demo-sounding offering from a silly little band who seemed lucky to have made it out of their garage—delightfully cute, for sure, yet with zero indication of what was to come, arguably the furthermost one could get from the biggest group on the planet at this point. Naturally, no one took it seriously, and this was fine, because no one ever asked you to, but the historians of hindsight have all agreed that this is an overlooked piece of importance, an unsung pioneer of the funk metal and rap rock phenomenon, while Flea’s repetitive funk bass lines slapped the shit out of the competition even way back when. Basically, at their worst, RHCP were still an underrated bit of fun.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 10. Freaky Styley

10. Freaky Styley (1985)


According to Flea, sophomore album Freaky Styley was "too funky for white radio, too punk rockin' for black," but it was a definite step forward for these Los Angeles boys, as they gradually sniffed out what it was they were looking for and then began to eagerly pursue it (and I'm not talking drugs here, although that was close behind). The legendary George Clinton was snatched up as the producer this round, and he was the ideal conductor to nurture the true funk within these youngsters, playing a father figure who approved their license to be as confidently idiotic as they so desired. Even better was that founding member Hillel Slovak had returned to the guitar seat and his liquid string-work effortlessly spilled their fluid all over the Chili blueprint. Meanwhile, Anthony’s unpretentious poetry was even more immature and erect than before, while the carefree trumpets which slipped between Flea’s signature pops proved that there was genuine talent hidden beneath this comical misbehaviour. They call it playing music for a reason, yeah? And yet (as with all early RHCP) the true joy comes in with how obviously oblivious this band were, the future of their inevitable fame impossibly far from their intentions, because no one would write songs this obscure for any financial purposes. Oh well, fuck ‘em just to see the look on their face, fuck ‘em just to see the look on their face.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 09. I'm With You

09. I'm With You (2011)


If nothing else, I’m With You is definitive proof of how collaborative the Peppers have always been, as every personality invited into the circle will somehow alter a fundamental component of the audio chemistry. After the creative authority of Frusciante had abandoned the cause for the second time, Josh Klinghoffer was recruited, and he was undoubtedly the best choice, the only choice, and the perfect choice. However, with these fresh ears came a lack of instrument confidence. There was a certain caution where his faint strings timidly tested their role, exploring their boundaries in a civilized fashion, unlike any RHCP guitarist who had come before. This proved to be the ideal window for Flea, who bullied the gentle Klinghoffer back into the shy of the mix, then shouldered his bass directly into the center stage, a luxurious domination that Mr Balzary was never granted before. Nevertheless, everyone was still dealing with the gaping John divorce, and despite putting all of the necessary hard work into the product, the overall forgettable wishy-washy quality and lack of any explosive hits on I’m With You fell over as the band’s lowest selling album in 20 years. However, I think this failure was primarily the public's fault. Truthfully, everyone had grown tired of Chili’s refusal to die at this point, and many were sick of their persistent radio presence, prompting an automated resistance towards any of their work, even the most respectable of songs immediately discarded as a mediocre snooze (which was only half true). Fantastic artwork though.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 08. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan

08. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987)


As a segment from the earliest of Chili Pepper stockpiles, their third album is often overlooked as yet another failed attempt at capturing the ever-elusive electrifying stage spirit that this band were quickly building a reputation upon. They were getting closer though, as this record's hyper-excitement smashed through the window with a much harder (almost metal) edge, louder than before, mindlessly slopping their colourful paint on everything, one helluva party! And yet, chip away the messy conglomerate of over-masculine cockiness splashing water out from the kiddie pool, and their mission of running amok still felt a little aimless and for-the-sake-of-it. Be that as it may, however, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan is still an extremely important landmark album in the Chili story, continuing along the trend of sharpening their craft and rapidly evolving per each release, taking more risks whilst slightly tweaking their energy levels by occasionally lifting their foot off of the pedal if the song called for it. Even more importantly, is that this is the only studio album in existence where every single track features all four of the RHCP founding members, partially because this was Slovak’s final artistic statement ever. Sadly, their guitarist passed away from a heroin overdose shortly after this release, and drummer Jack Irons understandably quit as a result, stating that he did not want to be part of a group where his friends were dying.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 07. Stadium Arcadium

07. Stadium Arcadium (2006)


When a band’s ego swells so large that it swallows its common sense like some fetal resorption, a double album is sure to follow, so please excuse me while I roll my eyes so dramatically that they make an audible sound. Although, to be fair, other bands didn't have Frusciante, and this is an imperative point as it is his minimalist guitar work which exclusively drives Stadium Arcadium, by densely layering itself upon itself with both eyes closed, all other components revolving his core, floating within a tender incarnation of everything everyone wanted RHCP to be. Predictably, a 2+ hour long meal will always be a calorific swallow (best consumed in two separate seatings, if you want my recommendation) but none of this hefty order felt forced. Instead, it was delivered to the table with creativity spilling over the brims of each radio-friendly song, with so much record space that they could casually spread every mood from their artistic history across the surface area, as if an accumulative statement summing up their entire career, and their final worthwhile fart on the matter. Sadly, this relentless weight of RHCP trademark upon RHCP trademark did eventually sound like a parody record, their latter-day safeness gone too far, and unsurprisingly, it loses steam by the end. This is not for lack of quality, mind you (the hits far outweigh the duds), but simply the sheer unreasonable quantity of it all, as everything loses its taste after a certain amount of chewing, and just how many Chilis were we expected to endure here anyway? Fuck, even Frusciante had enough at this point, quitting directly after this album, for realsies this time.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 06. The Getaway

06. The Getaway (2016)


After the stale I’m With You failed to impress anyone, the Chilis got such a fright that they immediately made some drastic changes to how things were going to be run around here. For starters, they fired two-decade strong producer Rick Rubin, employing the famed Danger Mouse to fiddle with their knobs instead, already forcing a shift directly at the entry point. After this, the humbled band regrouped themselves, approaching the problem cautiously as a team, laying back and focusing on their individual roles with a reduced ego, clearing a space where Josh could find a louder voice whilst Danger Mouse secretly added his mixed studio spice to vary the mellowing flavours. However, all of these calculated tactics and reserved attitudes could only nudge the old dogs slightly sideways, and the band’s eleventh studio record slid out as a relatively standard Pepper affair, the flame evidently long lost, yet a sturdy formula gained, one which knew how to manufacture a satisfying sound that could both hold a fanboy's happiness and keep the mouthy critics in a placid state. Negatively, (like most of their latter-day albums) The Getaway suffers from a bloated length, but (unlike most of their albums), it is a fillerless piece of work, impossible to decipher which songs should have been cut below others, with certain moments even skimming some former greatness. Undeniably, they’re still a highly skilled band, but it will never be what it was, and that’s why it really hurts.

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Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 05. Mother's Milk

05. Mother's Milk (1989)


The year was 1988 when founding guitarist Hillel Slovak overdosed on heroin and died, a mishap so terrifying that founding drummer Jack Irons withdrew his services too. This meant that the following record, Mother's Milk, introduced a 50% line-up change, a disastrous idea on paper which surprisingly turned out to be the most popular Pepper variation that the majority of people associate with the group today. The above-competent Chad Smith took skin duties, but it was truly John Frusciante (an eighteen-year-old Chili’s superfan/one of the greatest guitarists in the world) who made the largest dent in the entire history of RHCP. Frusciante’s confident string work oiled the existing parts that were already in motion, tightening the screws then turning the machine to face a more melodic direction, a bold refocus which, unfortunately, producer Michael Beinhorn didn’t quite understand. Instead, Beinhorn distorted the guitars and pushed this recording towards a more aggressive, hard rock stance, much to the band’s dismay. Nevertheless, it wasn't all bad, as this album does boast some of the group’s more tolerable production (a definite pricier studio quality which predated Rubin's march into the Loudness War), and the consequent benefits were instant: a cleaner Chili Pepper sound with an ever-developing catchiness in songwriting, growing slinky legs of its own and then tiptoeing closer to the mainstream, selling out venues, pissing old fans off, inviting new fans in, fame now within arm’s reach. Certainly, Peppers were always uniquely themselves, but this was where they got proficient at it, Mother's Milk remaining their most overlooked good record to this day.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 04. Californication

04. Californication (1999)


For many, Californication is prime Chili, their unrivaled finest hour, and a bonafide staple of late-90s musical culture—all of which are fair statements. Unfortunately, it was also this excessive talent which ultimately suffocated itself. The unignorable prowess of this album was so sticky that the radio and MTV would not stop stabbing it until the public’s own correlating memories overrode any former compositional worship, and in turn, we became sick of it. Thanks a lot, corporate media! What’s more, the best songs were so enormous that they accidentally toppled the lesser-than songs off of the ride, which stitched together a very patchy collection at best. Still, if you can recall those initial listens, you will evoke something truly magical in that American summer air. Frusciante had been living in a pit of near-fatal heroin addiction for eight years, and it was here that his brothers pulled him out, asking him to rejoin the band and employ his innovative restraint to meet Flea exactly halfway, their collaborative chemistry closer in tune here than anywhere else, period. Even Kiedis levitated above his trademark animalistic vulgarities into more thoughtful realms, complete with the vocal expansions to match it, and as one, they shot a syringe full of rejuvenation into their relevance. It was almost like a completely different band had appeared out of nowhere, a drastic sound change favouring a standard alternative pop-rock feel, a style which they’ve been running with ever since, and yet never quite coming as close to something as commercially successful as this.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 03. One Hot Minute

03. One Hot Minute (1995)


RHCP are the masters of channeling positive energy, but as we've already established, their backstory of drug addiction with members dying wasn’t exactly a hopscotch in the sunlight. By 1995, conditions were particularly bad, as Kiedis has fallen backwards into heroin again and Frusciante had left the band to pursue his own habit full-time, all the while there was this immense pressure to follow up their monster-hit record Blood Sugar, as bonafide famous rockstars for the very first time. Dave Navarro (the guitarist from Jane’s Addiction) was signed on as Frusciante's replacement and he immediately ruined their trademark funky fun by muddying the upbeat spirit with psychedelic metal and a brokenhearted darkness, the destruction of their misfortunate history finally weighing an album down into a muck of sadness. The natural dynamic was broken and the flow was throttled until the juices struggled to escape, exposing a dry, vulnerable crust of a band left behind, essentially just a depletion of junkies who were hardly hanging on. Due to this painful display, critics and fans were lukewarm to this somber manifestation until even the Chilis ignored its existence, firing Dave shortly after and hardly ever revisiting these songs live to this day. Interestingly enough, however, these circumstances eventually worked in One Hot Minute's favour, as it’s never been overplayed and is always overlooked as a uniquely uncomfortable part of their career, a gloomy place that the more sadistic of us adore as one of their best.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 02. By the Way

02. By the Way (2002)


Take Californication and nourish that sophisticated awareness until it's all grown up. Pour water into the funk and stir beyond recognition. Massage the hard-hitting raps into softer melodies, kneading the mixture into a rich poppy bubblegum, ready to feed into the fickle jaws of radio audiences. Hollow out the reckless energy until you can see its ghost, hesitantly covering its face but beaming with sentimental love. This is not the Chili Peppers you signed up for. This is a charm so delicate that any former successes seem accidental, a lucky stumble now washed away by this gentle wave of mild emotion, a calculated smothering, an intentional submerging of their previous trademarks, disappearing beneath Frusciante’s warm textures to the point that Flea nearly handed in his resignation. Understandably, some people felt betrayed by how far we’ve strayed from the rhythmic grooves, cursing an inability to perform the usual monkey dances over this 60+ minute runtime, but not everyone. People like me embraced this as the most cohesively perfect record the band has ever developed within their unique chemistry set, a gift from the stars, and the pinnacle of the Red Hot Rollercoaster before it turned down to face the ground and begin its most monumental descend yet.

Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers: 01. Blood Sugar Sex Magik

01. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)


Blood Sugar Sex Magik as a title may seem like some typical Kiedis buzzword drivel, but independently, each word sums up the four pillars of this record impeccably. There’s a newfound blood on this album, not only in terms of a deeper brotherhood connection, but also with Anthony’s pattering into softer territories, cracking open his primitive macho shell to offer us an introspective glimpse towards his demons and track marks. Conversely, around every corner is a mountain of sugar ready to raise your glucose levels so high that you’ll bounce off the walls, smashing through them at hyperspeed, you're still an animal on drugs after all. Of course, the sex was always an integral stain on the Pepper fabric, but with BSSM it’s an exaggerated blurt of vulgar innuendos like some poetic pervert malfunctioning in public. And finally, there’s the magik, where the telepathic chemistry of Frusciante’s inventive textures flow between Flea’s signature dominating slap grooves, everybody flexing their biggest muscles without getting in one another’s way, a metaphysical presence that is easier explained by some spiritual voodoo. Place Rubin in charge of the desk for the first time, and we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers, climaxing in the face of a sound they invented, well practiced, now perfected, immediately blasting them into superstardom where they still orbit us from today.