“Clean it up, Johnny.”
At the 2:32 mark of Stadium Arcadium‘s heavy, bass driven jam “Readymade,” Anthony Kiedis fortunately wasn’t asking lead guitarist John Frusciante to kick another drug habit. While getting clean has certainly played a significant role in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ improbable evolution, longevity, and success, collective sobriety gave this 2006 request new meaning. Kiedis was instead directing the esoteric axeman to sweep in with the kind of beautifully filthy solo that defines the California quartet’s landmark double album, which celebrates its tenth birthday on May 9th.
Although Frusciante left the band for weirder pastures in 2009, this twenty-eight-song collection is undoubtedly one of his (and the group’s) masterpieces. 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s Californication may be more widely renowned (2002’s By The Way will always be my personal favorite), but the eclectic Stadium Arcadium comprehensively illuminates the musical and metaphysical extremes the Chili Peppers (in all of their various reincarnations) have experienced and shared for over three decades.
For me (and several of my best/oldest friends), Stadium Arcadium is a unique time capsule. No other record transports me back to such a specific era, place, and feeling. The record always evokes the ambiguity, innocence, and fun that defined my most formative high school summers.
“Charlie” and “Tell Me Baby” remind me of sucking at beer pong. Frusciante’s “Wet Sand” solo returns me to a frenetic Hawaiian pool party that now feels like a Project X prequel. “Death of a Martian” weirdly puts me back in the driver’s seat of “Clive Owen” (my 1994 325 coupe named after the star of BMW’s The Hire) during a crazy Long Island storm. These moments weren’t exactly adolescent checkpoints, like prom or graduation, but they are far more representative of what makes youthful mundanities quite extraordinary.
While this epic work may be impossible for the Chili Peppers to replicate (2011’s Frusciante-less I’m With You is solid, but forgettable), the band’s recent album announcement and single release filled my ears and heart with joy and hope.
Stadium Arcadium may be ten-years-old, but revisiting it is one of the few things makes me feel like I haven’t aged a day.