Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 1991
Claimed Sales: 13m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
Ask the general public what the name of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ debut album and I’m sure that most people would guess Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It genuinely surprised me to learn that this was the band’s fifth studio album, their true commercial breakthrough and home to some of the early 90s’ most memorable hits. One of these, the inescapable Give It Away sums up the appeal of the album perfectly, it’s a bright poppy and downright funky song, with that rapid inflection from lead singer Anthony Kiedis on the hook and the sheer joy of the performance instantly setting them apart from their grunge centric peers of the time. It’s really interesting to hear the subtle difference in this sound, the funky slap bass heard on the likes of the banging Suck My Kiss or opener The Power Of Equality, or the melodic guitar riffs of the more subdued I Could Have Lied. This is Alternative Rock that’s aimed squarely at the mainstream with no preconceptions of being anything else. It’s what makes a song like the album’s biggest hit Under The Bridge work so well, Kiedis is allowed to own the record vocally alongside a simple, but now iconic riff, before the rest of the band return for a thrilling final minute full of choral voices and drums. Songs like this make the album, there’s variety here, but some consistent themes that bring it together. The title track Blood Sugar Sex Magik kick the sexual undertones up a notch, not just lyrically, but the pure filthiness of that grinding guitar against Keidis’s bassy verses is enough to make any parent in the 90s reach to cover their kids’ ears. There’s a lot of great songs on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, in fact at its best this is a terrific funky trip through a psychedelic vision of 90s, but at over 72 minutes long there’s also a lot here that just doesn’t need to be. The 8 minute penultimate track Sir Psycho Sexy is so overly sexed up that it ends the album on a sour note, with the minute long manically performed They’re Red Hot that follows it not faring much better. In fact just about everything that follows Under The Bridge on the tracklist sounds so superfluous that I’m convinced the album would have been an all time classic had it ended at 11 songs. In the end, it’s a personal choice though as the influence of this album can be heard across so much of the alternative rock music still emerging from the US and as a true introduction to the band, it definitely leaves you wanting to hear what’s next.
Will I listen again?: Perhaps once I’ve gone back and checked out their other albums.
Best Track: It was a fight between Give It Away and either of the two opening tracks, but in the end I’ve had to go with one of the album’s most memorable songs that still sounds great over 25 years on.