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.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

10 Lesser-Known Side Effects of Quitting Smoking

10 Lesser-Known Side Effects of Quitting Smoking

In my six months of ghostwriting assorted health-related articles around the web (over 90 to date), there has only ever been one submission which was flat-out rejected. There was no "would you mind writing this in a different voice?" or "could you please include more references?". Rather, it was a simple "we can't use this, Jared".

Admittedly, I kinda knew this was going to happen on some deeper stomach level. Perhaps I was testing the bathwater, seeing how hot I could run it, and trying to find the boundaries of professionalism. I found some! And maybe that's a good thing. God knows what I would be writing now if they had decided to use this fucking piece, or maybe God doesn't even know, and never will. Rather, what happened was a fat slap with a big red STOP sign, complete with an added footnote which highlighted how my article may scare people into smoking more, and from any ethical health standpoint, that was not something to proudly make money out of.

I completely understood. This was a reasonable response. Yet I was still offended. You see, having recently quit smoking myself, I felt betrayed by the common modern-day text on the matter, forever clicking their fingers in the sky, pointing towards the endless array of physical benefits one might find by spitting out these cancerous sticks of joy. But their hands hid the truth behind their backs. The truth! Which was, simply put, that quitting smoking sucks, and in ways far beyond those nagging nicotine cravings. Hence why I wrote this article! It had become my primary mission to inform other people of what I had discovered! An admirable quest with only one fatal flaw: I was trying to get paid for it.

On that note, here it is, spreading awareness from the smallest platform I have at my disposal. Educate yourself, prepare yourself for battle, and good luck. Here are 10 lesser-known side effects of quitting smoking, written in American.

1. You May Get the Flu
Officially dubbed “smoker’s flu”, you might develop a tight chest, sore throat, and a nasty cough, even worse than when you were smoking. This is a good thing though, as the tar covering the cilia (those tiny hairs in your lungs) is breaking down and hacking up in the form of repulsively dark phlegm. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to deal with this, so just get plenty of rest and wait for it to leave in its own time.

2. You May Suffer From Terrible Headaches
While your inner serotonin chemistry attempts to adjust itself back to normality, you might experience a plethora of interesting reactions. One may feel dazed, fatigued, sleepy, unable to concentrate, or could even suffer from migraines. In these tough times, use painkillers as per their instructions, and ensure you don’t skip on any sleeping hours.

3. Your Emotions Will Scream
Make no mistake: your cravings will call out from their empty pit of despair, begging for a cigarette, which can result in a very volatile emotional state. You may lose your temper in one breath, and want to cry in the next, but do not fear. Simply ask your loved ones for some understanding, and keep in mind that the first few days are always the most intense.

4. You May Struggle to Sleep
For the first week or so, it might be difficult to fall asleep. You may also wake up more often during the night, and experience the common recurring nightmare where you accidentally smoke a cigarette. The good news is that (once you settle back into it), you will ultimately sleep much better than you did as a smoker, and a healthy sleep equals a healthier life. Until then, experiment with different sleeping products until you find something which works best for you.

5. You May Become Constipated
Nicotine triggers bowel movement, and because of this, cigarettes do help smokers stay regular. When you suddenly remove this factor from your system, your digestive organs need time to adapt, which could result in abdominal pains and constipation. Fight this with warm teas, fruit, and exercise, or talk to a professional about medicinal options.

6. You May Gain Weight
After years of habitually raising your hand to your mouth to get a smoke-flavor fix, your mind has been trained well, which is why so many individuals swap one addiction for another, turning to food in hopes that this will fill the bottomless pit in their chest (it won’t). Use this compulsion to your advantage, by trading chips for carrots and soda for water.

7. Nicotine Replacements Might Not Work
Unfortunately, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that gum and patches don’t help ex-smokers in the long run. That said, the removal of your routine cigarette ritual may be useful for some, but just remember that you are still ultimately feeding into the nicotine addiction itself.

8. You Will Have More Time (for Better or Worse)
Without all those smoke breaks and moments wasted as your mind fantasizes about your next puff, you will be surprised at how much free space your schedule suddenly has. This may sound great on paper, but during your initial days of cravings, this additional time could become your most annoying enemy. The trick? Distract yourself!

9. Your Senses Will Return
You should find that your senses of taste and smell come back to you rather rapidly. Once this happens, many of your favorite foods may suddenly become too sweet or too salty. Furthermore, when in the presence of another smoker, you will realize how badly you used to stink, which should at least encourage you to stick to your path of liberation.

10. You Will Get Your Life Back
Most importantly of all, once you get over the initial hump, every aspect of your life will improve dramatically. Your health will return, your sex drive will return, you will look better, you will smell better, you will have more money, you will have more energy, and you will no longer be forced to endure cravings through painful meetings or stand in the rain just to get your fix. Simply put: once you kick this demon, you will feel like an idiot that it took you so long to do so.