Though their fans no doubt disagree, over the course of the 16 years they've been making records, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have really only connected with their singles. The four-minute format suits the quartet (now back to its early '90s incarnation, which includes singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist John Frusciante) in ways full-length albums don't. Something about both the fake frat funk of its pre-superstardom work and the juvenile nature of its latter-day stunts can't sustain interest for long periods (maybe it's Kiedis's thin, nasal voice, or maybe it's the derivative nature of the music itself). But there has been some good stuff. "Under the Bridge," the 1991 tale of a down-and-out druggie roaming L.A.'s urban jungle, was a well-deserved breakthrough hit for the Peppers, and last year's "Scar Tissue" (from Californication
) picks up that now-reformed junkie's story with glossy-eyed optimism. On the whole, Californication
is graciously surrounded by an adult perspective for this kooky clan of guys once given to taking the stage naked, sporting only socks over their privates or wearing giant light-bulb heads. Currently doing the summer amphitheater tour thing with the Foo Fighters (and later, Stone Temple Pilots), the Peppers have become a bit rigid live, and their sets have shortened over the years (getting older does this, you know). But word is the boys are donning their socks for some of their encores and are occasionally dipping into their bag of oldies. We prefer staying home and listening to "Under the Bridge" and "Scar Tissue" a couple of times and calling it a night.