Sunday 25 November 2012

Stadium Arcadium - A Mirror To The Moon

Be honest, when you think of "double album", do you think "Oh yes, more music" or is it "Oh no, more filler"?  Yeah, me too.  But how often do the best double albums turn out to be the best albums, period?  Case in point...


Released in 2006, Stadium Arcadium was the ninth studio album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who started life as a high school band in 1983.  Twenty years of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll later, and you would think the Peppers would be all washed up.  2002's "By The Way" might well have encouraged you in that expectation.  But no, Stadium Arcadium is arguably the band's Magnum Opus.

Originally conceived as a three-album project, with releases every six months, the 38 tracks recorded in the studio were ultimately whittled down to 28 for release as one double album.  It makes you wonder how good the 10 abandoned cuts were; I would have real trouble trimming it down to 27.

What makes Stadium Arcadium so good, is that the Peppers borrow from all of their previous styles to, in essence, create a whole which in the context of their career output is truly greater than the sum of its parts.  It suggests that everything the band has done in the past was all leading to this.  There is a new found maturity in the lyrics, some quite exceptional musicianship from all four members, especially guitarist Frusciante who finally releases the shackles and stakes his place in the pantheon of guitar greats.  Flea, of course, is already there (in the Bass department).

So for all that, don't expect to be blown away from the first needle drop.  Like all the best albums, this one creeps up on you slowly.  It is a measure of the band's confidence that the music is stripped of all pretense and allowed to stand up for itself.  Each track is meticulously crafted in - at least by RHCP standards - an almost minimalist style, the occasional flash of unbridled virtuosity having to stand its ground in the context of the song.

Stadium Arcadium won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.

Interesting fact - Stadium Arcadium was recorded in Harry Houdini's old house.  The band members each insist that the house's benevolent ghosts were responsible for the exceptional spirit of creativity and absence of the destructive internecine quarrels that have marked their previous studio efforts.  Unfortunately, one distinctly malevolent ghost ended up crashing the party.  Vlado Meller's mastering for the CD release is grossly, grossly incompetent, being highly compressed and clipped.  A banner carrier for the dreaded "loudness wars".  At least the LP release was mastered by the great Steve Hoffman who really knows what he is doing.  Hopefully, one day, a re-mastered high-resolution Studio Master will be released.