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Fresno Bee  - September 11, 2000
By Don Mayhew
In 1984, rock n' roll experienced one of it's most fertile years. Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." and Prince's "Purple Rain" were huge. Van Halen's "1984" and Huey Lewis & the News' "Sports" weren't far behind. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their rambunctious self-titled album. By 1991, rock bands had lost their footing on the charts, with country music and rap stars Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer taking over. Then Nirvana's "Nevermind" blew up, draggin punk into the mainstream. And there were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, pushing from the other side, with a decidedly funky breakthrough album called "BloodSugarSexMagik." Now it's 2000, teen-pop singing sensations Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys and `N Sync are all the rage, as are rappers Nelly and Eminem. And where are the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Right where they've always been, heavy in the mix with "Californication," considered by many to be the band's most consistently rewarding album. How have the Chili Peppers, whose Tuesday night show at the Selland Arena is closing in on a sellout, managed to remain fresh and exciting 16 years after their debut? How have they sold 4 million copies of the funk-rocking "Californication" in such a breezy pop climate? It wasn't easy. Widely chronicled heroin addiction has plagued many of the band members throughout the Chili Peppers' existence. They've had so many guitarists, a writer for Rolling Stone jokes, that "they could hold a reunion barbecue for them every summer." But singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea, the creative soul of the band, have remained constants. A lifetime (or two) of drug problems grounds the Peppers' yearning lyrics in gritty reality. And Flea's finger-popping skills give the music a propulsion rarely found this side of old Parliament-Funkadelic records. "They've stayed loyal to their base, but they're always changing things up," says Bruce Wayne, program director for the Fresno modern rock station KFRR (104.1). "They've always embraced new sounds, and they enjoy shocking people into new frames of mind." Wayne's favorite Chili Peppers' track, a slamming version of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," is evidence of the band's willingness to blend genres together - before it was fashionable. As hip-hop steadily made its influence felt on the charts during the late `80s, Flea was quick to adopt its clipped bounce. So maybe it's no surprise, as Wayne points out, that the Chili Peppers have spent more weeks at No. 1 on the alternative-rock charts than any other band in history. But there's more to their success than staying ahead of the curve, and it's something the many bands (hello, Limp Bizkit!) who've taken their cue from the Chili Peppers should keep in mind as they try to stretch an angsty itch into a career. Despite the music's macho aggression and the wacky antics (their habit of performing mostly, if not entirely, in the flesh also was ahead of its time), the Chili Peppers have a tender side. We're not talking cynical, stiff, throw-the-girls-a-bone power ballads but genuinely touching sentiment. As Flea put it, "The music is frequently feminine. I've always been, like, the girly-boy."