Freaky Styley by Red Hot Chili Peppers
13 Apr 2022
Red Hot Chili Peppers have had a well-documented tumultuous relationship with drugs. They are open about the dangers of substance abuse and how their lives are significantly better clean. All kudos to them. It makes it an awkward conversation then to say that the album Freaky Styley, recorded by the Chili’s while dealing with the influence of heroin and cocaine, is amongst their best work.
Produced by Parliament/Funkadelic frontman George Clinton, (unquestionably a man of funk royalty), it was certainly in good musical hands, and showcases a band lightyears from the safely mild pop-rock band post Blood Sex Sugar Magic. We have a fabulously sleazy horn section (“Yertle The Turtle” particularly grooves), a sweetly soulful ensemble of backing singers, and Clinton’s unmistakable drawl ever present. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis warbles in a burly baritone (“Jungle Man”) raps and shouts (“Nevermind”) and howls like a monkey (“Black-eyed Blonde)”, giving vibes of a young Mike Patton (don’t tell Kiedis I said that…). Flea is always inventive and relentless with his bass, channeling The Brothers Johnson. Hillel Slovak’s guitars and Cliff Martinez’ drums fuse the dirt and pocket of funk with a punk attitude so unique to the early RHCP sound. It is a real shame they did not continue this later in the band’s life, but of course changes of lineup and lifestyle bring significant changes of music.
There is a true old school funk sound throughout the album, and the similarities to Parliament are clear and proud for many tracks. We also get loud psychedelic rock peppered with horns and slap bass. The lyrics can be crass at times (“Catholic School Girls Rule”) and the humour often falls flat (“Thirty Dirty Birds?” What were they thinking?). Freaky Styley however is rarely dull, and spoils us with so many ideas, always with an electric energy that could power a city block. This is not the Chili’s as they are today, but is a fascinating snapshot of a very different band, and one that listeners may be surprised to enjoy.