Album Of The Week 4.1.22


August 17, 1983.  My first concert: Oingo Boingo at the Universal Amphitheater. It may sound kinda uncool, but screw it – Oingo Boingo was my first favorite band, and this night was a foundational moment of my musical fandom.  My dad worked on a season of the evening soap opera Falcon Crest, and one of the cast members was dating Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek.  Imagine pre-teen me finding out this information; it was like the San Fernando Valley myth of Fonzi living in a house nearby, and the Fonzi in question inviting me over to hang out. Ayyyyy…I think that Happy Daze urban myth was based on a random dude leaving his house in a leather jacket, but holy guacamole how that conspiracy theory spread on the camp bus that summer.  Anyhow, my dad took me to the concert, and we had backstage passes to meet the band after the show.  I still have my copy of the Good For Your Soul record, with signatures of all of the members.  I was on the inside with a bunch of industry outsiders, and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The opener of that infamous evening was a young LA band with a goofy name, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I only remember two things about this performance: 1) they were terrible and showed no signs of future promise, and b) the lead singer was such as shitty singer that he would run out of breath as he sang.  Well apparently Anthony Kiedis remembers more than I do, as he wrote in his autobiography: 

“Oingo Boingo had come up from the same club scene we were in, and they’d just kept going. They weren’t our favorite band in the world, but they had some interesting instrumentation. We knew their trumpet player, and he offered us the opening slot for their big show. Here we were with no record deal, a ten-song repertoire, and we were going from playing in a club before two hundred people to playing to an audience of four thousand. We went out onstage that night wearing our weirdest clothes. Right in the middle of the first song, Flea broke a bass string. suddenly, it was crickets time, and I had to talk to the audience while Flea changed his string. Withing seconds, the crowd was booing and throwing stuff at us, chanting, “We want Oingo Boingo.” But it was combustible material for getting the energy going. We started in again, and Flea was so wound up that he broke another string. At this point, Danny Elfman, who was the lead singer of Oingo Boingo and also a fan of ours, strolled onstage wearing a bathrobe and with a face full of shaving cream, as if he was coming straight from his dressing room. He took the mike and told the crowd that he really liked us and they should be respectful, and then he left, but the few unruly guys in the crowd didn’t heed his endorsement. We soldiered on and got cooking, and by the time we were finished, I think we let them know that we were for real and that they had just been hit with something they wouldn’t soon forget.”

The thought that I would be listening to new music of either of these bands 39 years later, and that RHCP would thrive for decades longer than Oingo Boingo is flabbergasting on multiple levels.  The fact that RHCP matured into the elder statesman of alternative rock seemed about as likely in 1983 as this kid from the valley hanging out backstage on that fateful night.  But here we are. And were.

Unlimited Love is the Chili’s 12th album, their first in 6 years.  Listening to this band of dudes approaching their 60s conjures a feeling somewhere between watching an ageless athlete like LeBron James, and seeing Mick Jagger command the stage at almost 80 years old. Hard to imagine, especially considering the hard living the Chilis went through back in the day. Love marks the return of guitarist John Frusciante and producer Rick Rubin, absent from recent previous work.  It’s difficult to determine who has a stronger impact; both seem to hone the band into a more accessible unit, but the result is string of tracks that remind the listener of what has been the band’s appeal over the years – tight, funky musicianship, moments of extreme rockness mixed with heart-on-their sleeve power ballads, enduring rap-rock from pioneers of the subgenre before it became a parody of itself.

Leadoff track “Black Summer” and “Whatchu Thinkin’” will fit comfortably on a commercial free rock block on KROQ. “Poster Child” name-checks a panoply of music legends and forgotten rock soldiers, everyone from Richard Hell to Adam Ant to Van Morrison, in an almost “We Didn’t Start The Fire” or “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” manner.  But in a cool way.  “Not The One” has the feel of a summer day at the beach, passing a joint or tossing a frisbee.  It’s about as direct of a love song you’re gonna get from a bunch of dudes who used to wear socks on the shvonces as a publicity gimmick.  

Clocking in at 73 minutes and 17 tracks, there’s a lot here, but a lot to love about Unlimited Love. it is mystifying why artists still release what would have been a double album back in the day, and may still be if you’re buying vinyl.  I know that Drake does this effectively, flooding the music services with mega albums that feel more like commercial products than musical statements.  Regardless, I miss the old days of a tight 10-12 track album, perhaps followed by a 5 song EP a few months later.  That’s just me.  All I know is my shortening attention span makes it difficult to sit down to any long album not named Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. But I found listening to Love in its entirety twice in the last 24 hours, and that’s saying something.

6 Word Review: No Socks Unlimited Love For Alternafunk