Hey Pepper-Uppers! You knew to expect some changes when you saw the Angeleno punk-funk pioneers out-attituding tennis stud Andre Agassi in that shoe commercial. But you couldn't have foreseen that this, the band's fifth album (due in stores Sept. 24), would contain a song like "Breaking the Girl." With its acoustic guitars and recorders and yearning lyric, the number wouldn't have been out of place on an early-'70s album by, say, Dave Mason or somebody.
But it's a great move by the Peppers and producer Rick Rubin (the man who brought us such sensitive acts as Slayer and the Geto Boys), and it couldn't have come at a better time. Though the band is coming off its biggest hit, the 1989 album "Mother's Milk," it not long ago seemed played out--even before the 1988 overdose death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak.
Even with the tragedy focusing and reigniting founding bassist Flea and vocalist Anthony Kiedis, who recruited two young braves for the bracing 1989 hit album, "Mother's Milk," the band threatened to turn into a self-parody, surpassed by a second generation of bands it inspired, including Faith No More. "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" puts the Peps back on top of the hill they built.
"Break the Girl" and a couple of other similarly toned tunes add new dimensions to the strutting funk and breast-beating chants the band is known for. And with a generous 16 songs on the album, there's still plenty of time for strutting and breast-beating. Even then there's often an almost delicate quality to some of the playing, the band's airiest funk yet, highlighted by John Frusciante's often-understated guitar and Flea's taking-care-o'-business bass.
Most impressive is Kiedis, who has grown enough both as a multidimensional frontman (he raps, growls and now croons with the best of them) and lyricist that he can chastenedly sing, "Shoulda been, coulda been, woulda been dead / If I didn't get the message going to my head"--and still live up to the song's typically taunting title, "Suck My Kiss." It's that sugar of humility and maturity combined with the expected blood and sex that makes some magik.