Coming 30 years into the Red Hot Chili Peppers saga, the barrier-defying double album Stadium Arcadium
trades the usual sophomoric shock tactics for something truly surprising.. Here, the ultimate West Coast party band proves that the strategically placed tube socks are a thing of the past and that they deserve -- gasp! -- to be taken seriously. Thank guitarist John Frusciante
, who's more of a presence here than usual, lacing songs like "Charlie" with dizzy, art-tastic guitar solos and pushing his fellow Peppers into heretofore unexplored territory, as on the Stereolab-on-steroids power drone "Animal Bar." There's a good bit of new ground covered here, primarily on the second disc, which is subtitled "Mars." On "21st Century," for instance, bassist Flea
corrals his over-the-top funkateering, marshaling out the notes in a spare, angular style that's more reminiscent of Gang of Four than the Ohio Players. The set's first disc, a.k.a. "Jupiter," has more of a classic Chilis vibe, replete with purposefully goofy, rhythm-dominated odes to knockin' boots: Flea makes the most of the chance to grind his pelvis into the groove of "Bump Da Bump," while frontman Anthony Kiedis
works his stream-of-consciousness mojo on the delirious "Especially in Michigan." The smattering of ballads here -- relatively few compared to the band's most recent studio efforts -- fall short of the emotional oomph of, say, "Under the Bridge." But when the Peppers get it right, as they do for most of Stadium Arcadium,
they tickle and provoke, nudge and wink, and make it easy to tell 'em to hold on tight and don't let go.