Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:20 March 2021
Los Angeles funk-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers had been steadily building a following since their first album came out in 1984. Despite membership upheavals and some challenging personal struggles, by the time their fifth studio album hit the stores in September 1991 the band were hitting their stride. “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”—the Peppers’ first release on Warner Brothers—did more than take them to the next level, it took them into the worldwide first division.
Boasting four singles, the most successful of which was “Under the bridge”, the album has sold almost fifteen million copies worldwide, achieving 6 x Platinum in Australia (where it placed 8th in the ABC’s “Australia’s Favourite Albums of All Time”).
The signature RHCP style—rap/rock/funk—is well illustrated in the loping, stuttering “Mellowship slinky in B major”, yet there is variety aplenty in the Peppers sound. Thrill to the swaggering rock bombast of “Suck my kiss” and the title track, or pogo along with the mesmerising rhythmic rollout of “Give it away”. Then there’s the transfixing triple-time melody of “Breaking the girl”. If only some band attitudes to women matched the beauty of this tune.
Contrasts abound across this sprawling double album. There is a heartfelt sadness in breakout single “Under the bridge” that speaks of a painful loneliness familiar to teenagers. The massed voice chorus is part angelic celebration, part requiem. It is a really fine song that deserved its anthem status during the 90s… and beyond.
Yet the album also carries explicit lyrics and a very direct approach to sex, one of the areas where “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” drew sharp criticism in America. We’re not being censorious here; the lyric of “Sir Psycho Sexy” could pass as a history of pornography from a graphic Adam and Eve re-telling via women-in-uniform to S&M. What do they say before television programs? Adult themes; contains strong sex scenes. “Sir Psycho” also has one of the most libidinous bass/drum/rhythm themes ever. You have been warned.
“Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is far from the first double album to invite suggestions regarding the advantages of judicious pruning. Perhaps things might have been tightened up by pulling the seventy-four minute length back to, say, an hour. Of course, none of the hundreds of people who voted the record into the Top 10 of Australia’s Favourite Albums would agree. They’d say it’s just perfect just as it is, all four vinyl sides. And who are we to argue with the people?
Bruce Jenkins © 2021