So a few years ago I went through a brief Red Hot Chili Peppers phase, and made a mix of their best stuff. I just listened to it again the other day. I'm no longer in that phase, I guess: it suddenly seemed to me that the Chili Peppers only really had two musical ideas, which they have been flogging repeatedly for - jeez, can it really be twenty-six years now? Usually if I don't much like a band I won't bother to write about them, but in this case those two ideas were pretty compelling, even if they were pretty fully explored in two songs on the same album in 1991.
One of the songs is "Give It Away." The idea that culminates in this song is white-punk funk, right? The lineage is their early covers of the Meters's "Africa" (RHCP's version is "Hollywood") and Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," etc. I'm of the age and socioeconomic background that I heard the Chili Peppers' versions of these before the original, but frankly now I'd rather hear the originals. Still I can appreciate the musicianship, the punk adrenaline, and when they tried to translate all that funk into their own thing they did manage to make it work. "Give It Away" is a masterpiece. Unfortunately I haven't heard anything else they did in this vein say anything more or better than this song does. It may be all you need by them in this regard.
The other song is, of course, "Under The Bridge." With this they stumbled into the company of the Doors and X, other rock chroniclers of L.A.'s suicidal allure. You know, pick up the rock and this is what crawls out. It's a perfect record, and while they'd do excellent work in this vein in the future ("Californication" comes close to matching it, and so does "Dani California"), they'd never quite match it. Later visits to this mode sound like they're trying to match it; part of the charm of the original is that they clearly didn't know what they had.