Californication is the seventh studio album by Red Hot Chili Peppers, released in 1999. It is known as the comeback album for the Chilis, and it is their most widely sold album to this day, peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 200.
The history behind the album, its creation and its sound is a long and troubled one. At the beginning of the decade with the Peppers' massively successful fifth studio album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, guitarist John Frusciante became completely disillusioned with the band's overnight recognition and left the band mid-tour in 1992. During his absence, he lived alone and developed a serious heroin addiction. The Chilis, meanwhile, replaced Frusciante with Dave Navarro, the guitarist of Jane's Addiction, and in 1995 released their Darker and Edgier sixth album, One Hot Minute. The latter did not perform as well due to its artsy psychedelia and the issues the band was facing at the time. The band faced internal conflicts and came close to breaking up, especially in the wake of singer Anthony Kiedis's drug relapse.
Finally, in 1997, Frusciante, on the brink of death, miraculously checked himself into rehab. He was let back into the band in 1998, and the reunited foursome, celebrating their freedom from drug addiction, released this album. Californication has since sold over 15 million copies worldwide and spawned a slew of radio-friendly hits such as "Otherside", "Californication", and "Scar Tissue" (which won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 2000). It is tied with Meteora for the most cumulative weeks its singles have spent at Number 1 on Billboard Modern Rock Hits, and on Rolling Stone's "500 greatest albums of all time" list, Californication received the #401 spot. It remains an incredibly influential album to this day.
Not to be confused with the unrelated TV series Californication.
- "Around The World" (3:58)
- "Parallel Universe" (4:30)
- "Scar Tissue" (3:35)
- "Otherside" (4:15)
- "Get On Top" (3:18)
- "Californication" (5:21)
- "Easily" (3:51)
- "Porcelain" (2:43)
- "Emit Remmus" (4:00)
- "I Like Dirt" (2:37)
- "This Velvet Glove" (3:45)
- "Saviour" (4:52)
- "Purple Stain" (4:13)
- "Right On Time" (1:52)
- "Road Trippin'" (3:25)
Bonus Disc (Australian Edition):
- "Gong Li" (3:42)
- "How Strong" (4:42)
- "Instrumental #2" (2:43)
Bonus Tracks (iTunes Edition):
- "Fat Dance" (3:40)
- "Over Funk" (2:58)
- "Quixoticelixer" (4:48)
- Flea - bass, vocals
- John Frusciante - guitar, vocals, keyboard
- Anthony Kiedis - lead vocals
- Chad Smith - drums
- B-Side: "Quixoticelixer", a song which Anthony found important enough to mention in his autobiography, didn't make it on there. Same with "Bunker Hill", "Fat Dance", "How Strong", "Gong Li", "Over Funk", "Instrumental #1" and "Instrumental #2".
- Break-Up Song: "Quixoticelixer", which was about his tumultuous relationship with his then-girlfriend Yohanna Logan. There are frequent references to depression as well:Kick back a little just to watch and see
Getting sicker by the minute with debauchery
Whatever your pleasure, I'm your punk
On the brink of sinking baby, but not yet sunk [...]
Everyday depression in a beautiful dress
Oh, well, it made a beautiful mess I guess
- Buxom Is Better: "Fat Dance", an outtake from the album. The song was originally spelt "Phat Dance"; "phat" stands for "Pretty hot and tempting." This makes sense because the song's about Anthony Kiedis's girlfriend Yohanna Logan, who is anything but fat.
- Call-Back: The video for "Scar Tissue" shows the band riding along in the desert, bloody and bruised. This idea was supposed to have been used for the "Soul To Squeeze" music video, but got scrapped in the end. In addition, the desert they drive through is the same one in which they danced for the "Give It Away" music video, representing their maturation over the past few years.
- Country Matters: On "Get On Top", the only time the band has ever dropped the c-word in a song.
- Darker and Edgier: While not as dark and edgy as One Hot Minute, the band did include serious songs that would have been unheard of during the BSSM era, such as "Parallel Universe", "Scar Tissue", "Otherside", and "Easily". The video for "Scar Tissue" features the band bloodied and jaded from drug abuse, which contrasts with their youthful, hip image at the time.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Otherside", which relates drug addiction to an abusive relationship.A scarlet starlet and she's in my bed
A candidate for a soul-mate bled
Push the trigger, pull the thread
- Same with "Scar Tissue", which is more about the struggles one faces while going through drug rehabilitation.
- Epic Rocking: The long final solo to "Parallel Universe", and the length of "Savior" and "Californication" could allow them to qualify for this trope.
- Femme Fatale: "Get on Top":Exterminate my cause
You want to draw some straws
Be the one to see my flaws
Make me bleed with painted claws
- The Four Chords of Pop: The chorus of "Otherside."
- Freedom from Choice: Alluded to in "This Velvet Glove", which is about a freedom from the severe expectations that would accompany darker times in a relationship:John says to live above hell
My will is well
No one is waiting for me to fail
My will could sail, yeah
- Funk Rock: This is the album where they started to downplay the genre, though songs like "I Like Dirt" and "Purple Stain" are textbook funk rock.
- German Expressionism: The video for "Otherside" is initially designed to resemble The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which Flea had recently caught channel surfing one night. However, the directors of the video (John and Valerie Davis) distanced themselves from the comparison, seeking to instead draw inspiration from earlier, 19th century expressionist art.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Starting with this album especially, Anthony began to defy this trope, hiring a vocal coach to train instead of approximating his notes on the recording. He said that he began to take singing more seriously and now prefers singing over rapping.
- Hopeless War: "Easily".The story of a woman on the morning of a war
Remind me, if you will, exactly what we're fighting for...
Throw me to the woods because there's order in the pack
Throw me to the sky because I know I'm coming back
- Horrible Hollywood: "Californication" pretty much defines this trope. It goes on about starlets selling their bodies on the silver screen, the hypocrisy of music and film producers who sell false ideas, and the inevitable destruction of Hollywood culture through its own faults and debauchery.
- In the Style of...: Frusciante has stated that the outro solo to "Savior" intentionally mimicked Eric Clapton's style, though he added effects over it so that it was hard to tell.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: "Get On Top" and "Around the World" feature Kiedis's trademark Motor Mouth-ed lyrics. "Over Funk," a B-Side, is almost completely indecipherable, and its official lyrics have never been released.
- Instrumental: "Instrumental #1" and "Instrumental #2", neither of which made it onto the album but are still amazing in their own right.
- Intercourse with You: "Get On Top", "Purple Stain", and probably "I Like Dirt".
- Averted by "Californication"; the second part of the word has to do more with the second definition of "fornication", which is mostly about the spreading of a culture.
- Literary Allusion Title: "Quixoticelixer" refers to Quixotic, a word that describes Don Quixote. Much like how Don Quixote believed he could conquer great things beyond his means, the song is about how a relationship can fall apart due to heavy expectations at its conception.
- Listing Cities: "Around the World", describing a bevy of beauties that Anthony has seen in places like Bombay, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Sicily...
- Location Song: "Californication" is about how everything in the world is becoming more and more like California, aka Hollywood and thus fake and struggling for instant celebrity.
- Loudness War: This album's shitty mastering got even non-audiophile consumers to complain. Even the ballad "Scar Tissue" was downright deafening. What makes the case of this album particularly egregious is that even the vinyl mix was ruined. Apparently, it was run through a digital dynamic range processor before being mastered for vinyl, which is usually mixed from analogue sources. The CDs of future RHCP albums were also brickwalled, but the vinyl mix of at least Stadium Arcadium was made from a pristine analogue mix by audiophile favourite Steve Hoffman that basically cancelled out all the CD version's flaws. With Californication, listeners don't have that option with any of the commercially available versions, so the whole thing is basically ruined. There is, however, a remastered version making the rounds on the Internet that does not have the clipping problems. This is one of those cases where the album can basically only be truly appreciated through piracy.
- The album was eventually given a vinyl remaster that is generally considered substantially superior to the original release of the album. It's still pretty loud, but not as horribly distorted as the original, nor is it as muddy.
- Lyric Swap:
- The final chorus of "Otherside" has Anthony finishing the phrase he repeats, "Slit my throat, it's all I ever-" with "...had".
- The original choruses to "Around the World" featured only Anthony Kiedis's scatting since he hadn't written the lyrics to it yet, until he swapped in the lyrics later. However, Flea's daughter, Clara, said that she liked the scatting, so the band decided to swap in the scatting during the final chorus instead.
- Lyrical Shoehorn: "Savior's" melodic verses seem to be as emotional as the choruses, until you read the lyrics:We are the red hots
And we're loving up the love-me-nots
The flowers in your flower pots
Are dancing on the table tops
- Mood Whiplash:
- Right after the rocking, punk-funk song "Get On Top", the album moves onto the slow, calm "Californication".
- "Purple Stain" features a psychedelic, melodic jam; the next song is "Right On Time", which has a notoriously fast slap-popping bass-line.
- The Not-Remix: The Greatest Hits version of "Californication" features a slightly different version of the song than the album version. For example, the newer version features the first chorus repeating "Dream Of Californication" four times instead of the usual twice, and the backing synthesizers are played earlier in the song.
- Officially Shortened Title: While not as significant as most examples, "How Strong" is shorter than its original title, "How Strong Is My Love".
- One-Word Title: "Saviour", "Otherside" and "Easily".
- Portmanteau: "Calfornication" and "Otherside", obviously, between California and fornication, and with other and side. "Quixoticelixer" is a portmanteau between Quixotic and elixir.
- Phenotype Stereotype: "Fat Dance", weirdly enough, is about doing black people dances. This is complete with the lyrics "Let's get it on like black trash!" and "I'm feeling in the ghetto because that's my trouble!" Ummmm...
- Philosophical Parable: "Easily" is an anti-materialist song, and refers to concepts such as the aforementioned "story of a woman on the morning of a war", "a licking stick looks thicker when you break it to show", and the act of throwing oneself "to the wolves because there's order in the pack"
- Precision F-Strike: "Around the World":I try not to whine, but, I must warn ya
About the motherfuckin' girls from California
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Road Trippin'" is about a road trip Anthony, Flea, and John took soon after the latter rejoined the band. As such, the song does not feature Chad Smith's drumming, and the music video lampshades this by having Chad do a cameo during the bridge.
- Remaster: There's a completely different version of the album that was leaked onto the Internet, featuring altered versions of album songs such as "Scar Tissue" and "Parallel Universe", and even B-sides such as "(These Are Not My Dreams Of) Bunker Hill" and "Fat Dance". There are also previously unreleased songs such as "Andaman & Nicobar" and "Mommasan".
- The raw version of "Purple Stain" bears many similarities to the album version; however, the demo version had its chorus overhauled, it has a minute-long jam in the middle that was later cut, and the lyric Android loves got John Frusciante is repeated much more often.
- The raw version of "Californication" is especially notable. Anthony stated in his biography that the song was notoriously difficult and clunky to master because of its long verses. The recording wears this pretty well, since John's complex guitar verse doesn't fit well with the lyrics. It's only after the band scrapped it for the minimal, cleaner guitar accompaniment featured on the album that this song went from being an afterthought to the title song of the album.
- Self-Deprecation: "Over Funk" is a funk song about how the band has stopped being known as a Funk Rock band, having made the switch to more Alternative Rock conceits.
John says to live above hell
- When John returned to the band in 1998, Anthony was impressed by a song the guitarist had written called "Living Above Hell", and asked if the Chilis could perform it. John refused because he didn't want his solo work to conflict with the band's, so Anthony instead sampled that line in "This Velvet Glove":
My will is well
- "Purple Stain" is chock full of these.
- It includes the line "Python power straight from Monty / Celluloid loves got John Frusciante".
- Also "Knock on wood, we all stay good, 'cause we all live in Hollywood / With Dracula and Darla Hood".
- Also a shout out to Chris Farley: "Farley is an angel, and I can prove this".
- The title itself is a reference to Prince's film Purple Rain.
- This set of lines from "Californication":
- Silly Love Songs: "This Velvet Glove" could come across as one, since its subject matter is much more laidback than the other more depressing songs.
- SoCalization: "Californication", which includes the line "Little girls from Sweden dream of silver-screen quotations".
- Song Style Shift: "Quixoticelixer" gets far more intense during the final verses. "Savior" has jarring shifts between the choruses and the verses.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Porcelain" was the most gentle song they ever released up to that point. Also "This Velvet Glove", which is about a relationship with Anthony's then-girlfriend Yohanna Logan.
- Three Chords and the Truth: "Road Trippin'", which is one of the band's few songs to not feature drummer Chad Smith. "Scar Tissue" was built almost entirely around the guitar riff.
- Uncommon Time: "Porcelain" was done in 3/4, one of a few non-4/4 Chili Peppers songs.
- Vocal Tag Team: Starting with this album, John began to contribute a lot more backing vocals to most of the songs.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: "Savior" deconstructs this. The song's about Anthony's tumultuous relationship with his own father and how that has affected both of them to this day. Anthony would always try to win his father's approval by partaking in dangerous activities that his father would have thought were cool, and now he sees that this while this has shaped who Kiedis has become, it doesn't excuse a lot of his dad's antics.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: On "Road Trippin'":Blue, you sit so pretty west of the one
Sparkles light with icing
Your eyes are just a mirror for the sun...
Your smiling eyes are just a mirror for
- Yarling: On "Scar Tissue" and "This Velvet Glove".