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by Justin Farrar

May 1, 2013

Blood Sugar Sex Magik: Source Material

by Justin Farrar  |  May 1, 2013

Packed with monster hits like "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge," Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "breakout album." The Alternative Nation landmark, released in fall 1991, swiftly transformed the Los Angeles band from grizzled veterans of the underground into pop superstars worthy of A-list fame (whatever the hell that means).

In terms of influences, the Rick Rubin-produced gem represents a next-level distillation of everything the band had always held near and dear to their hearts, from the nasty-ass groove exploration of vintage P-Funk and mid-'70s Stevie to Hendrix's acid-fueled psychedelia, from the renegade punk-funk pioneered by Minutemen and Big Boys to The Stooges' sexually charged rock 'n' roll (which without question echoes throughout both "Suck My Kiss" and "Sir Psycho Sexy"). But there are other, more marginal influences to be detected as well, such as how Chad Smith's powerhouse drumming reflects his love for classic hard rock (mighty Van Halen in particular), and the lyrics Anthony Kiedis penned for "I Could Have Lied" were inspired by his brief tryst with firebrand iconoclast Sinead O'Connor.

Having said all that, possibly the most interesting influence in need of parsing arrives at album's end, when a cover of Robert Johnson's "They're Red Hot" struggles to break the one-minute mark while flailing about like a Tasmanian devil. On the one hand, it's something of a throwaway, a welcome bit of lighthearted fun after exposure to over an hour of deep hard-funk ecstasy. But on the other, the tune is a microcosm of how Johnson and the American blues he helped create permeate the whole of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. And it's this bluesy vibe -- all gnarled, shadowy and mean -- that distinguishes the album from anything else in the band's vaunted discography. After all, to this very day, it remains the Red Hot Chili Peppers' one true masterpiece.

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