Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return Of The Dream Canteen (2022)
By Paul Rigg
Their Cup Runneth Over
Yes, it’s true: the Red Hot Chili Peppers have followed up their 17-track April release, Unlimited Love, with yet another double album, Return Of The Dream Canteen, (14 October 2022; Warner Records).
The latest 17-tracks are drawn from the same Rick Rubin-produced sessions which, as all fans know, featured returning guitarist John Frusciante, together with singer Antony Kiedis, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith. The reunion of the A-team that produced albums such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication, brought renewed energy and joy as they looked back to their roots for inspiration.
“Yup, two double albums released back to back,” they explained in a press release, “we went in search of ourselves as the band that we have somehow always been. Just for the fun of it we jammed and learned some old songs. Before long we started the mysterious process of building new songs [….] once we found that slipstream of sound and vision, we just kept mining. […] It felt like a dream.”
The latest 75-minute offering ignites with the wonderful pop single Tippa My Tongue that after a quiet intro rapidly grows into a swaggering funk acid-trip number, which recalls the band at their peak. The wonderfully trippy rhythm is backed up by an equally psychedelic and thrillingly retro video (see our accompanying selection). Kiedis’s largely unintelligible lyrics are also to the fore, at least until you put on his idiosyncratic sex-spectacles: “centuries of overuse, now I wear it nice and loose,” he sings with a glint in his eye.
Peace & Love continues with another sublime Flea groove, but Kiedis throws us a curve-ball here because, for once, it seems like he’s singing without obscure lines and metaphors when he croons: “Shout out to my lonely friends, a message that I meant to send/ I got peace and love for you right now.”
Other outstanding tracks include Fake As Fuck - which combines contemporary complaints about news and perhaps celebrity culture with feelings of being overwhelmed: “I read the news, it’s all gone wrong, the facts of life serving up doom and gloom / I’m never going to leave my room” to a guitar sound that recalls the Smiths’ Johnny Marr - ; Eddie, which is a touching tribute to Eddie Van Halen; and the jazz-driven Bella. Similarly jazzy and worth a shoutout is My Cigarette, which might be argued is an outlier and outrageous ode to smoking, but its cheekiness nonetheless chimes perfectly with the Chilis’ back catalogue.
The album closes with the ballad In the Snow, which finds Kiedis in reflective mood. “My mates have all gone married now / Off living in a kindred cloud,” he sings, before being brought down to earth with his own reality: “I check my stupid phone again/ No matter that it’s 4am/ It burns my eyes.”
Return Of The Dream Canteen offers a number of wonderfully funky cuts with a few experimental tracks that are as unexpected as they are welcome. The Chilis are now the elder statesmen of 80s alt-rock, but continue to tour big and overflow with ideas for new songs. In their recent Austin City Limits gig, Frusciante stands with his Strat in hand on Tippa My Tongue and towards the end lets rip with a blistering two-minute solo; it can sometimes feel like nothing has ever changed.