It took the Red Hot Chili Peppers three albums to make their breakthrough, and four to become one of the biggest bands on the planet. Since Blood Sugar Sex Magick sent them stratospheric, they’ve continued to release one huge hit after the other. Not every album has been a masterpiece, but they’ve all had enough moments of greatness to keep us listening. Here, we take a look back at the career of the funkiest band around as we rank all 11 Red Hot Chili Peppers albums.
11. The Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Peppers weren’t too thrilled with their 1984 debut, and, truth be told, neither were the rest of us. The songs have energy (particularly tracks like Get Up, True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes, and Jump and Out in L.A.) but very little finesse. The potential is obvious, but so is the fact that the band still had some way to go before they’d reach it.
10. I’m With You
In 2009, guitarist John Frusciante left the band for the second time. Fortunately, Josh Klinghoffer was on hand to step in for 2011’s I’m with You. Long-time producer Rick Rubin was back, as was the band’s signature sound. And that’s partly the problem. The Peppers seem so unwilling to step outside their comfort zone and try something new, they sound almost like the Peppers ‘doing’ the Peppers. It’s in no way a bad album, with Brendan’s Death Song, Police Station and Meet Me at the Corner all standing out in particular, but as newsweek.com notes, sales paled in comparison to its predecessor, Stadium Arcadium, and there’s a reason for that.
9. Freaky Styley
The Peppers’ second album, Freaky Styley, was a big step forward from their debut. Funk icon George Clinton had been bought in to turn up the volume on their innate funkiness, while songs like Jungle Man, Catholic School Girls Rule and Blackeyed Blonde are a definite step up from their earlier efforts. Not every song stands out, but enough do to make it essential listening for any die-hard Peppers fan.
8. One Hot Minute
The 1995 album One Hot Minute doesn’t get that much attention, which is a shame. The band weren’t having a great time of it personally, especially in the case of Anthony Kiedis, who’d recently fallen off the wagon in a spectacular way. But any internal tensions don’t make it onto the album. There’s less funk and more metal riffs than you’d expect from the Peppers, but on songs like Aeroplane and My Friends, it all comes together beautifully. Even if you don’t approve of the departure from their signature sound, it’s worth the listen for the rare vocal turn from Flea on Pea.
7. The Getaway
After a five-year break from the recording studio, Red Hot Chili Peppers returned in 2016 with a new album, The Getaway, and a new producer, Danger Mouse. There are some great tracks on the album, with the inspired Dark Necessities providing an excellent opener to the album. Unfortunately, the greatness isn’t sustained for the duration. Sick Love, Feasting on the Flowers, This Ticonderoga, and Go Robot are all excellent, but you can’t help but miss Frusciante’s contributions. It’s good, but neither funky nor energetic enough to be riveting.
6. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
As loudwire.com explains, by 1987, the original layout of the Peppers was back intact as drummer Jack Irons joined Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and Hillel Slovak in the band. Producer Michael Beinhorn helped the band move beyond funk and start introducing elements of metal and reggae, and the result is scattered with enough highlights (Behind the Sun, Backwoods, and Fight Like a Brave) to make The Uplift Mofo Party Plan a rewarding, if slightly messy, listen.
5. Mother’s Milk
In 1989, all of the promise that the Peppers had shown on their earlier albums finally came to fruition on Mother’s Milk. Although the death of Hillel Slovak had dealt a devastating blow to the band, his replacement, John Frusciante, proved a very able successor. Drummer Chad Smith was a similarly excellent addition, tapping into the band’s funky style from the get-go. Aided by standout tracks like Taste the Pain, Knock Me Down, and Higher Ground, the album climbed all the way to No. 52 on the Billboard 200 – their highest charting position till that point.
4. Stadium Arcadium
If there’s one thing Stadium Arcadium isn’t short on, it’s songs. Finding enough quality material to fill a double album can be tricky, but the Peppers were clearly on enough of a creative streak for it not to phase them. Most of the tracks are memorable (Charlie, Slow Cheetah, Readymade and Especially in Michigan in particular) and Frusciante’s solos are as transcendent as ever. There’s a little too much filler, but ultimately, it’s a great album, and unquestionably one of their most commercially successful to date, earning the band five Grammy Awards and achieving three times platinum certification.
3. By the Way
After the major success of Californication, expectations were running high for its follow-up, By the Way. It didn’t disappoint. John Frusciante’s melodic contributions carry the album, moving it away from the band’s trademark punk-funk fusion towards a warmer, more understated sound. Standout cuts include The Zephyr Song, Dosed and Universally Speaking. According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the band’s most commercially successful albums of all time, having sold over 8 million records.
After their fortunes took a beating with One Hot Minute, the Peppers were back at the top of their game for 1999’s Californication. John Frusciante was back in the fold (never a bad thing) and the songs were dynamite, with the Grammy-Award-winning Scar Tissue and the massively popular Otherside standing shoulder to shoulder with the band’s best-ever work. The album now ranks as their second-biggest seller of all time, and for very good reason.
1. Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Topping off our list of the 10 best Red Hot Chili Peppers albums is Blood Sugar Sex Magik. After Mother’s Milk provided the band with their breakthrough, we were expecting good things from its follow-up. But nothing could have prepared us for just how glorious it would be. Crammed with stunning tracks like Give It Away, Suck My Kiss, Breaking the Girl, and the deeply personal Under the Bridge, it doesn’t let up for a second. A triumph.