One Hot Minute
“Funk, by nature, is more of a happy sound, and none of us were really feeling like that,” Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro said about the band’s darkest, weirdest, heaviest album, 1995’s One Hot Minute. A beloved anomaly in the Peppers’ catalog, One Hot Minute was released during a roller-coaster period between 1991’s multi-platinum funk-metal masterwork Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s equally megalithic Californication. Uncomfortable with the group’s new monster success, guitarist John Frusciante—whose melodic sensibilities helped the Peppers pivot from clubs to arenas—departed from the fold, resulting in years of auditions and revolving guitarists (they eventually settled on Navarro, a certified guitar hero). During this same bumpy period, the band members were reeling from the deaths of close friends, or getting caught in the grips of addiction (lead singer Anthony Kiedis relapsed after five and a half years of sobriety). As a result of all that pain, One Hot Minute is perhaps the band’s most vulnerable effort. Navarro’s goth-metal churn brings out some of the Peppers’ moodiest and meanest moments; if their freewheeling sex-funk is like a punk-weaned Parliament, One Hot Minute is their dive into the apocalyptic depths of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. The album’s lead single, “Warped,” is a sharp turn from the delirious grooves of “Give It Away,” presenting Kiedis’ free-floating vocals about chemical dependency over syncopated groove-thrash. “One Big Mob” mixes crushing alt-metal with a bridge of dank psychedelic haze, while the title track is certified sludge, with a dissonant coda and a cameo from No Wave icon John Lurie on harmonica. In One Hot Minute’s more reflective moments, the band members reveal some of their most melancholy and nakedly emotional material ever. “My friends are so distressed/They’re standing on the brink of emptiness,” Kiedis sings on the album’s biggest hit, the bleak and beautiful “My Friends.” “Tearjerker” is a loving ode to Kurt Cobain, who passed the year before, and “Transcending” does the same for River Phoenix (though the latter ends with a purging acid-rock thunderstorm aimed at the media circus). Meanwhile, Flea’s vocal turn on “Pea”—a world away from the bravado of Kiedis—explores his own feelings of insignificance, and contends with an actual beating he received. The Navarro-assisted version of the Chil Peppers wouldn’t last, and the band members would ultimately reunite with Frusciante for a world-dominating run of smashes. But One Hot Minute is a hard-charging, deeply naked portrait of a band figuring out some crucial next steps in a time of both triumph and turmoil.