Legendary rock group and ’90s icons, Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are lining up their second album release of the year (!) and the new single has them taking some interesting leaps.

Tippa My Tongue is a cheeky, catchy number drenched in the band’s signature funk rock sound. It has all the classic makings of an RHCP song — abstract yet playful lyrics, energised singing-rapping, head-banging bass lines, stylish guitar chops and enough groove to move along with.

The trippy and colourful music video has the ageing rockstars dancing clownishly with sporadic movements, but they very easily match the wild energy that made them famous, and now timeless. While drug-related references are common in the band’s discography (and personal lives), Tippa My Tongue feels like some new ground is being broken.

“Acid landing on my tongue, I think you know we’ve just begun,” is the only direct lyrical reference to mind-altering substances. It’s paired with a visual aesthetic that was quite popular during the countercultural boom in the middle of the last century, and which keeps coming back occasionally.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new single Tippa My Tongue may indicate a renaissance for the band

Starting with Anthony Kiedis sticking his tongue out to show a red pill in the shape of RHCP’s iconic logo resting on it, the video continues into a psychedelic wonderland of animation effects, light cues and camera movements. Directed by Malia James and animated by Julien Calemard and Thami Nabil, the music video is exciting and refreshing, despite reusing classic tropes of psychedelia.

Musically, the new single remains rooted in the funky genesis of the Chili Peppers. The band has hardly ever ventured fully into a psychedelic sound, although some influences are heard on nearly every album. Even now with a title, lyrics and video pointing to this certain style, the song is not really psychedelic rock. Nothing to complain about though.

The loyalty to their funk roots is a sign of the band’s confidence in what they do even after four decades of doing it. Chad Smith, band drummer since 1988, points out the influences of funk legends Parliament-Funkadelic and George Clinton on the new track. Clinton also produced their 1985 album Freaky Styley.

The new single is the first peak from their upcoming album Return of the Dream Canteen, which was recorded in the same sessions as their previous album, Unlimited Love (released in February of this year). This is the first time RHCP will come out with two studio albums in the same year, especially surprising because their last four were released at least five years apart.

It also signals a potential new era for the band, a prospect that is sure to leave their fans ecstatic. The two albums that the band put out in the last decade, I’m with You (2011) and The Getaway (2016), failed to really hold our attention despite some tracks serving as reminders of the band’s glorious stature. Maybe the story will unfold differently this decade.

I say this because the ax-slinging cult hero has returned to the Chili Peppers. As one of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time, John Frusciante’s tumultuous course is charted alongside RHCP lore.

Multiple entries and exits from the band, near fatal drug habits and solo projects that have traversed genre boundaries, Frusciante came back as lead guitarist in 2019. Looking at the years that he has been with the band, 1988-1992 and 1998-2009, one gets the idea that he is their not-so-secret weapon.

Moody and melodic, Frusciante’s soulful guitar has elevated every memorable RHCP album. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), Californication (1999), By the Way (2002) and the double album Stadium Arcadium (2006) are no ordinary feathers in his cap. His most recent absence had made Josh Klinghoffer the guitarist. While Klinghoffer cannot be compared to his monumental predecessor/successor, he is still a talented fan favourite who served the band well.

Return of the Dream Canteen, releasing on October 14, also sees the return of the evergreen enigma of popular music production, Rick Rubin. A long-time collaborator with the Chili Peppers, having produced over a dozen of their albums, Rubin is an unmatched master who has worked with some of the greatest acts of all time in styles as diverse as heavy metal, hip-hop and country music.

He has helped the band make some of the best era-defining music there is and, while not all their collective efforts have been so memorable, Rick Rubin at the helm is always a good idea.

Tippa My Tongue is the waking call of a sleeping giant. Make no mistake, Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the greatest bands of all time and no amount of underwhelming music can undo their legacy.

They have embodied their unique style consistently over time and stand as the most enduring funk rock outfit there is. Fortunately for us, this time, the promise of a real comeback looks deeper.

The fun energy and warm familiarity of the new single reminds every fan why they fell in love with these rockers. The re-return of Frusciante and the shamanic presence of Rubin means the sky is the limit. I think we know they’ve just begun.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 25th, 2022

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