Blood Sugar Sex Magik
The joy of 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik is hearing a band break through and become something new. Nothing they’d done previously is as sensitive as “I Could Have Lied” or as beautiful as “Under the Bridge.” Nothing is as genuinely heavy as “Suck My Kiss” and “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” or as political as “The Power of Equality,” which, according to Anthony Kiedis, prompted producer Rick Rubin to say he preferred songs about cars and girls (which Kiedis gave him in “The Greeting Song”).
You can still hear their foundations in punk and rap (“The Power of Equality”), but you can also hear the romance of the Beat poets (“Breaking the Girl”) and the kind of Californian classic-rock ideals—free love, the expansion of consciousness, earnest poetry—that make the band feel as much like stewards of the ’60s as products of the ’80s (“Sir Psycho Sexy”).
It’s that balance—between the crude and the contemplative, the direct and the obscure, the jock jam and the art song—that makes Blood Sugar Sex Magik not just one of the definitive albums of the 1990s, but one that helped push alternative rock into the mainstream. Compared to Nirvana (whose Nevermind came out the same day), they were as Hollywood as Guns N’ Roses; compared to Guns N’ Roses, they represented a vision of hard rock that paved the way for not just rap metal, but a universe of heavy, guitar-based music that felt mainstream in reach but still underground in nature.
“Lowbrow but I rock a little know-how,” Kiedis sings on “Give It Away.” It’s a good line. But it’s also a mission statement: With Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Red Hot Chili Peppers made weightlifting music you can think with.