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Red Hot Chili Peppers 

By the Way (Warner Bros.)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are at their best when mining singer Anthony Kiedis's turbulent past. "Under the Bridge" and "Scar Tissue" are the band's most satisfying songs, because there's a sense of authenticity behind the aural memoir. And because the frat-boy faux funk the Peppers pioneered in the '80s is absent. By the Way, the group's follow-up to 1999's Californication (itself an encouraging step away from bouncy bass lines and rickety guitars and onto more tuneful ground), is one long -- very long -- frolic in the pop field.

It's also, as recent Chili Peppers records are wont to be, very serious-minded. You know this because Kiedis switches on his Kermit the Frog voice when he gets deep (Exhibit A: "Dosed"), and because there are very few raps and rhymes. Returning producer Rick Rubin coats By the Way in a thick sheen of lush harmonies and even lusher melodies. This is what grown-up Chili Peppers sound like, and make no mistake, this group has completely reached adulthood.

It's also snuggled into a blanket of comfort that leaves little room for movement. By the Way basically takes the best parts of Californication and repeats them for more than an hour. The title tune rolls most confidently, because it's most familiar -- to fans' softened ears and to the band's recurring program.

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