On the front of the latest shrink-wrapped release from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a sticker proclaiming Stadium Arcadium the “#1 must-have album for 2006” (Q Magazine).

It’s been four years since the California-based rock band has released a studio album, tiding fans over with live albums and remastered versions of earlier releases. In the meantime, the Chili Peppers amassed enough material to produce this two-disc set, a collection of messy instrumentation and static vocals. Nothing about the album is spectacular – many of the songs sound the same, and by the end of the second disc, Anthony Kiedis’s voice is enough to make the listener feel queasy. Kind of like realizing you ate one too many chocolate truffles after the whole box has been devoured.

When the Foo Fighters released their two-disc set In Your Honor in 2005, they had a theme running through each disc – one was harder, faster and louder, the other was slower and more ballad heavy. The separation made the release more manageable and practical, as fans were able to pop in whichever disc better fit their mood. Stadium Arcadium makes no use of this technique, instead placing a bipolar mix of songs on each disc. On the first, called Jupiter, listeners groove along to the chill “Slow Cheetah” – one of the better songs on the release, even though parts of it sound too akin to “Californication” – before they are catapulted into the bass-heavy, unnecessarily jarring “Torture Me.” Lyrics like “Torture me and torture me / It’s forcin’ me so torture me” are juvenile and hopelessly banal.

Also on the first disc is “Charlie,” which opens with some sweet James Brown-esque funk chords. The tone quickly changes for the worse as the song morphs into annoying choruses of repeated words. With lyrics like “Charlie’s makin’ me smile” and “All I ever wanted to / Was pick it up and run with you,” the song is another instance of an all-male band singing a song about a boy – Franz Ferdinand longed after “Michael” and The Killers dreamed of “Andy” on “Andy, You’re a Star.”

“Hump de Bump” is another mediocre song on the first disc. It seems as if the Chili Peppers pulled a page out of the Black Eyed Peas’ song-title choices, added some nonsense lyrics and spastic percussion and slapped the song on the disc. The trumpet and drums are stimulating, but they are not enough to save the track.

The second disc, Mars, isn’t any better. “Make You Feel Better” does nothing of the sort. Its upbeat melody and steady drumbeat allow it to stand out. By the time the listener stumbles upon this song, he is likely to approach it with passivity and ambivalence.

“Storm in a Teacup” is a barrage of noise and shouts, bound to leave those who make it all the way through with a splitting headache. “Turn it Again” is six minutes of tedium: The lyrics are hard to decipher, and the layered instruments are lost on each other. There’s simply too much stuff going on. The last two minutes are pretty much a guitar solo – something that would have been welcome had it not come so soon after the “Storm in a Teacup” assault.

It’s no wonder “Dani California” and “Tell Me Baby” are the first singles on Stadium Arcadium. They are the lone standouts and help redeem the album, if only slightly. The former boasts a compelling, sing-along chorus, and the continuously changing texture of the vocals makes for a winner. It also has a killer music video. “Tell Me Baby” is a toe-tapping, head-bopping delight, and Kiedis busts rhymes that would impress Eminem.

Stadium Arcadium< /em> is nothing to write home about. Would the Chili Peppers have been better off with a standard one-disc album? Hard to say, but one thing is for sure: It’s a good thing they didn’t opt for the three-disc release.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stadium Arcadium
Warner Bros.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *