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Craig's Music Club
Music CD Recommendations

This month: By the Way by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Alternate Recommendation: Maroon by Barenaked Ladies

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Cover image/photo of By the Way by the Red Hot Chili PeppersRed Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way

Like most mainstream followers of Red Hot Chili Peppers, I first became aware of them through their cover of Stevie Wonder's classic song "Higher Ground" off their album, Mother's Milk. Then, when "Give it Away" and "Breaking the Girl" were big, I broke down and bought their breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, finding out too late that they were the only songs on the album that I liked.

Well, recently both the Chili Peppers and I have matured and our paths have converged again. I was very interested in the songs off Californication (like "Scar Tissue" and the title track) and stopped changing radio stations when their name was announced as forthcoming. And now with By the Way, they've gained me as a fan again.

This has all the things that I liked about them in the first place: the hard-driving funk--epitomized by Flea's frantic bass playing--combined with the softer, more introspective side. By the way is their most melodic album yet, and that's a good thing. And it's consistent, one song blending into the next with no jarring. Instead of simply throwing together all the songs they've recently recorded into an athematic mishmash, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have created a wonderfully cohesive portrait of where they are in their lives. From the beginning strains of the title track to the ending guitar strums of "Venice Queen," By the Way is a delight.

"By the Way," "The Zephyr Song," "Universally Speaking," and "Throw Away Your Television" speak to me the most but the whole album is great and easy on the ears. Red Hot Chili Peppers have entered the world of adult contemporary, which is a boon because that's what their longtime fans are listening to now.

As Anthony Kiedis sings on "Midnight," "just a minute while I reinvent myself." By the Way is the result of a band not being afraid to change its style or alienate its fans. It certainly brought me back.

Alternate Recommendation: Barenaked Ladies, Maroon

Previously, I reviewed Barenaked Ladies' album Stunt. I said it was like the Run Lola Run soundtrack in that it was terrific for long road trips.

Well, they must just make their albums like that, because Maroon is the same way. And it's even better than Stunt. All the same things that are great about the band and their albums are here in abundance. But there's a greater maturity that comes through the lyrics and music without leaving out any of the fun.

The songs are better and there are more of them that I would consider "favorites:" "Falling for the First Time," "Conventioneers," "Baby Seat," these are all tunes that could easily lapse into the pop lexicon. The only one I regularly skip is "Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel" just because, while I'm driving, I don't want to be imagining dying in a car wreck. Too depressing and too easily a harbinger. But otherwise Barenaked Ladies' Maroon is a tongue-in-cheek romp that any fan will appreciate.

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