On April 1, 2022, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released a 17-song record titled “Unlimited Love.”
This 12th installment in the Chili Peppers saga features the return of lead guitarist John Frusciante, returning to the fold after about 10 years away. Frusciante is arguably the most popular guitarist the Chili Peppers have had in their lineup, as he played on hits such as “Scar Tissue,” “Can’t Stop” and “Under the Bridge.”
“Unlimited Love” also saw the return of longtime Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin. Rubin was responsible for producing nearly the entirety of the Chili Peppers’ discography starting in 1991. Rubin was absent from the band’s 2016 album “The Getaway,” which was produced by Danger Mouse.
At 17 tracks, “Unlimited Love” falls short of being the longest Chili Peppers album. Despite not having a runtime comparable to 2006’s monster double album “Stadium Arcadium,” (2 hours 3 minutes), this record provides listeners with a 1 hour 13 minute listening experience, making it the third longest Chili Peppers album in terms of runtime.
Musically, “Unlimited Love” contains the Chili Peppers’ iconic sound, courtesy of singer Anthony Kiedis’s catchy staccato vocal melodies and bassist Flea’s iconic basslines. However, this new album also features a modern take on what is typically understood as the band’s classic sound.
“Here Ever After,” the second song on the album, features a thumping bass line from Flea. The track sounds much like the 90s Chili Peppers, combining the bass with Kiedis’s fast lyric delivery. I find it absurd the band did not release this track as a single.
The lead single also happens to be the album opener. “Black Summer” is Frusciante’s place to shine, as he delivers a clean, jazzy guitar part over Kiedis’s somber vocals about environmentalism and climate anxiety depicted in the song’s music video. Frusciante’s guitar solo is powerful and melodic, serving as a climax before Kiedis’s vocals return.
The two other singles released prior to the album, “Poster Child” and “Not the One,” seemed rather underwhelming, although not a total loss. The former is a psychedelic-inspired track, as Frusciante makes good use of a wah pedal. However, the song seems a bit bloated. “Not the One” is an atmospheric-sounding piano ballad, which also suffers from overproduction.
One notable track is “It’s Only Natural,” in which drummer Chad Smith delivers a fantastic shuffle groove which couples nicely with Flea’s bass fills. Kiedis’s vocals on this song also remind me of 90s Chili Peppers, more specifically, his performance on “Under the Bridge.”
“It’s Only Natural” leads into “She’s a Lover” which I can only describe as “punk/funk.” Frusciante delivers an insanely funky guitar chord progression paired with Flea’s punk-inspired bassline.
Out of 10 stars, I give “Unlimited Love” five. While the return of both Frusciante and Rubin is cause for celebration, it is no secret that most of the Chili Peppers’ 21st century albums have not been as strong as some of their previous work. I would argue 2006’s “Stadium Arcadium” was the band’s last “great” album.
While some songs from “Unlimited Love” work very well, the record ultimately possesses a lot of lengthy filler. Some might argue “Stadium Arcadium” is also bloated given twice the runtime, but I would argue the flow of that record rarely, if at all, gets lost. However, “Unlimited Love” loses that flow again and again.
Overall, “Unlimited Love” possesses just enough singles to appeal to casual Chili Peppers fans, but when it comes to the album as a whole, the record seems far from an essential purchase.