- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Stadium Arcadium

Warner Bros. records

After the slapdash excellence of 2002’s “By the Way,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers played true to their slacker image. They retreated to rest up, fall in love and watch from the sidelines as new rock acts conquered the charts.

Now the boys are back and in vintage form with “Stadium Arcadium,” a double album with precious little filler. Where “By the Way” flickered with a gnawing for newer sounds, “Stadium” recycles every trick that worked for them in the past. Yes, their politics can be alienating, but these 28 tracks are a double dose of fury and finesse.

Their funk-driven roots remain flexible and captivating, letting lead yelper Anthony Kiedis quasi-rap through tracks such as “Snow (Hey Oh)” without sounding derivative or, worse, soulless.

The sleepy allure of the title track, an ascending ballad with guitar detours, is all Chili Peppers.

Mr. Kiedis, bassist Flea, guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith traffic in their typically trippy lyrics, but flashing through are shout-outs to monogamy that might knock the socks off longtime fans.

“All I want is for you to be happy, take this moment to make you my family,” Mr. Kiedis cries in “Hard to Concentrate,” a far cry for lads who once pranced nearly naked during their live shows.

Even some misfires here have saving graces. “Hump de Bump” begins derivatively, then introduces its silly hook before blending into a simple guitar riff that holds your attention until track’s end. “Strip My Mind,” on the other hand, plods along until not even Mr. Frusciante’s reliable strumming can save it. “Tell Me Baby” sounds like a computer simulation of your standard Chili Peppers number.

The second disc begins with the complicated “Desecration Smile,” an inscrutable ballad that bounces along with rhythm guitars and Mr. Kiedis pleading — for what, we’re not quite sure.

On “Slow Cheetah,” Mr. Kiedis’ howls have given way to genuine crooning, illustrating his maturing approach. Not that he can’t still crank up the volume, as “Torture Me” makes crystal clear. The rocker even includes a spicy horn blast to shake the formula.

While it would be easy to credit “Stadium Arcadium” to the presence of producer-god Rick Rubin, it’s too true to the Chili Pepper sound for that facile assumption. “Stadium Arcadium” isn’t what happens when a band reaches middle age; it’s realizing that getting older means fusing the best of past and present without apologies.

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