Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk

David Raposa

By David Raposa

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Mother's Milk

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Frusciante becomes a Pepper and the Peppers’ heart grows three sizes

With guitarist Hillel Slovak dying of a heroin overdose, and drummer Jack Irons opting to quit the group before another bandmate met the same fate, the remaining members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers found themselves dealing with issues and emotions that, to say the least, were at odds with their "Good Time Boys" image. Recruiting John Frusciante and Chad Smith to replace Slovak and Irons (respectively), Anthony Kiedis and Flea opted to keep the memory of their friend alive in their music; it's fitting that the one track on the album to feature Slovak's work is the group's gleefully out-of-control cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." But while it's easy to imagine Slovak contributing his brand of squealing skritchy-skritch to tracks like the fight-band-friendly "Magic Johnson" and the funk-punk-a-rollin' "Stone Cold Bush," songs like the meditative "Pretty Little Ditty" or modern-rock staple "Knock Me Down" find Frusciante quickly making his mark on the band. His stylistic fluidity allowed the group to follow their own peculiar drum — following "Ditty" with "Punk Rock Classic" probably gave some listeners whiplash, while their now-ubiquitous treatment of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" manages to do right by the original while still sounding as Peppery as anything. It also gave the group the ability to stake a claim in strange new unexplored territories, including the mineral-rich hinterlands that would soon become known as Alternative Rock. Hillel Slovak might have given the Red Hot Chili Peppers their sound, but it was John Frusciante that gave the group their fame.