(This article goes along with this video.)
Stadium Arcadium: The Chili Peppers’ latest album; and what looks like their last with John Frusciante contributing his transcendent six string poetry. I love the album for all of the reasons someone loves a double album: getting to hear a wide variety of songs you wouldn’t get if they’d chosen to trim it down to eighty minutes. The counter-argument is that with so many songs, there are bound to be some that aren’t top notch. I say that with the talent that these four have, I would’ve bought an album made up of twenty discs. Even if ten of them just had John talking about what kind of cereal he has in the morning.
The two discs are named after the Gods Jupiter and Mars. In astrology Jupiter represents the need to expand oneself and grow. It is associated with the urge for exploration and freedom. Mars on the other hand represents energy, sexuality and aggression. I remember reading something John wrote, saying that these two ideas were well represented on Stadium Arcadium. I think that is what makes Stadium such a fantastic album. It retains the underlying energy and libido that characterized their earlier crazy days filled with mayhem and socks filled with cocks. But here that energy underlies and is adorned with fantastic melodies and harmonies. There’s a real virility to these songs that are bursting with life, and at the same time exploring beautiful sonic landscapes.
What I’ve done here is taken bits from the instrumental versions of each song on the first disc. They’re bits that I didn’t fully appreciate when I heard them on the album in their complete forms. At the same time, when I did hear the complete songs again afterwards, it made me like them even more. By coming to appeciate how fantastic these parts were on thier own, I also came to appreciate how well they fit together with the drums and vocals. I picked most of the bits from each song based on the guitar, so that’s why all of the pictures are of John. That of course isn’t meant to take anything away from Flea and his funky funky self.
Dani California: Bridge (2:11 – 2:30) <- Where it is on the actual song
I never really noticed how cool and watery the guitar sounded here. According to John it was put through a modular synthesizer, "processed with the Doepfer's LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) controlling its highpass filter, so that the filter opens and closes rhytmically". I wish I knew enough so that I could tell the difference between the sentence I just quoted – spoken by someone who knows what they're talking about – and this sentence that I'm just making up: "it was warped with a YLK, dubbed using the string oscillator, that vibrates on the low end atonally". One day David, one day. He also talked about how the drums during this section were filtered, and only played in one speaker to begin with, and then pan to the center while opening up. Pretty neat bridge!
Snow ((Hey Oh)): Pre-Chorus (1:32 – 1:46)
This sounds pretty simple at first, but if you listen really closely (or do what I did and look at the tab), you’ll see that he’s actually playing this:
That style of alternating between low and high strings that he did a lot on Niandra, or the Scar Tissue riff, for example. But it’s done a lot quicker here, and is really hard to play.
Charlie: Chorus (0:47 – 1:07)
I just found this cool to hear without the vocals, because it follows a different path than they do, and is hard to hear with them. Anthony said that the instrumental track he got for Charlie was his favourite on the album, and it is pretty bad-ass. Wow I just noticed how taking the time to hyphenate the word ‘bad-ass’ really takes away from its bad-assness. Before this section during the verse John’s guitar is in a different time signature from the drums, here it settles back in for a while. I was pretty tempted to put the next section (“Your right, I’m wrong…”) which I guess would be the bridge? For a long time it was my favourite part of the album. I didn’t do thatbecause it’s easy enough to hear on the complete track.
Stadium Arcadium: Verse and Chorus (2:00 – 2:30)
A bit of a surprising choice for a title track in my opinion, but it’s got some neat things going for it. I don’t know what it is, but hearing John doing those backward guitar licks made me really sad that he’s not in the band any more. It was probably thinking about all of the experimental elements that he brought to the band, and how much meticulous love he put into every song. The fact that you could hold the Peppers up against other bands with interesting production quirks and experimentation because they had John in their ranks made me think about that giant hole that he’ll leave in their sound. It’s like losing an amazingly skilled player to free agency, you miss having him on your side. That all came to mind during this section, and I think the tone during the chorus is pretty great.
Hump de Bump: Interlude and Chorus (2:21 – 2:55)
This was cool because I never heard that little build up during the drum bonanza before. And that riff is so chucky (to borrow an adjective) and awesome. You can hear that the drum bled into the guitar or bass mics on this.
She’s Only 18: Chorus (1:45 – 2:18)
Again I chose this bit just because I never really heard it properly on the complete version. It really is a rockin’ riff. (Wow ‘rockin’ riff’ sounds about as un-rockin’ as possible.) It’s one of those big power-chordy choruses that they had on a few songs on Stadium. I gathered from interviews, but I might be wrong, that those sorts of parts comes from Chad and John. That’s true in this case, because Anthony said the chorus used to be a ‘hazy-phasey’, weird chord progression that John had come up with, before he (John) came up with the huge chorus that the final version has. I didn’t really appreciate how huge it was until I heard it on its own.
Slow Cheetah: Guitar Solo (3:33 – 4:03)
I love the sound of the chorus, sounds kind of like when you strum with a really thin pick. The guitar solo just fits in perfectly. Really uplifting and joyful. It also comes across, to me anyway, as sounding very relaxed and content. That fits in with Flea’s idea as to the meaning of the song, which is: enjoying life by living it at a slower pace. It’s really interesting how hearing the meaning of the words to a song, impacts the way you perceive the meaning of sound in that song. On a side note, this might be my favourite song on the album at the moment.
Torture Me: Intro and Verse (0:08 – 0:28)
To me that bass riff that opens the song is the most serious and grave sounding thing that they’ve ever recorded. It gives me the sense that what’s coming is something truly important. Now that I hear John’s guitar clearly I feel like it follows suit and also sounds very serious. I picture the band out of their usual colourful attire; dressed in black, with high collars, on a windy hill, in slow motion, deliberating over something that will affect the entire world. I wonder if I’m the only one to get that feeling? Anyway. I like the way John’s guitar sort of washes over the accented single notes that Flea is playing. It’s also cool how he switches chords just before the end of every bar instead of at the start of the next one.
Strip My Mind: Pre-Chorus and Chorus (3:32 – 4:00)
What gets me about this little snippet is the buildup in intensity of the rhythm guitar as it goes into the chorus. It’s also neat how the lead guitar sort of continues the same ‘sentence’ once the song does get into the chorus. I really really the change in tone of that lead guitar throughout this bit. I feel like those types of production elements defined a big part of the sound on the album, and did give it a pretty spacey aura. When a few of those sounds are layered, you get an album where each songs feels like a world you can stick your head into. Here’s an article where John explains the effects and production he used on each song.
Especially in Michigan: Verse (1:18 – 1:45)
Same sort of thing. Listen to how that tone morphs with the feedback, unreal.
Come on Girl: Pre-Chorus and Chorus (2:51 – 3:08)
Apparently the hardest bassline on the album. Also one made up by John. I guess it’s the same sort of idea for three songs in a row, but the mixture of all of those different sounds is mind-boggling to me. The interplay between the bass and guitar is also really cool here. Again another big chorus.
Wet Sand: Outro (4:00 – 4:22)
Sorry to cut it off right before the solo; you can actually probably get blue balls from that. This is a section that’s just overflowing with so much energy, building up towards that cathartic, explosive solo. I was sure that those arpeggios were from a harpsichord, but according to John that’s actually a guitar! “At the end of the song there’s an arpeggiated guitar part created by sloing the tape down and playing harmonies a third up, on the treble pickup, which made it sound exactly like a harpsichord. I’m convinced that’s what Hendrix did on ‘Burning of the Mignight Lamp.'” I never know how to end a quote that ends with a quote, those three apostrophes look strange. Are they still called apostrophes if they’re part of quotation marks? The word apostrophe comes from the roots ‘apo’ meaning from and ‘strophe’ meaning to turn away. Which makes sense when they’re replacing a letter like in ‘they’re’ but not if they’re around something, like in ‘they’re’. I wonder if anyone stuck around long enough to get that nugget of info? Great outro though; I’d never noticed that lick in the middle of it.
Hey: Bridge (3:40 – 4:14)
Probably some of Frusciante’s most beautiful guitar playing, and that is saying something. I loved being able to really hear it on the instrumental track. Can’t say much about something like that, just go ahead and listen to it a few times.
Thanks for reading! I wonder if this is what will finally bring in some readers via the youtube video, like an unsuspecting horde following a trail of donuts into a scientology meeting. But if you liked what you read, and would like to have more of the feeling of dopamine rushing into your nucleus accumbens check: this, this, this and/or (but preferably and) this out! Or check it all out! Or whatever, I’m just glad some of you got this far!
I’ll be doing one for Mars eventually. Hope you enjoyed this. Happy Holidays!