Ram Jams: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Get High on Psychedelic Sound in ‘Return of the Dream Canteen’

On the band’s second album of 2022, RHCP experiment with old and new sounds for a mostly enjoyable experience




Genre: Alternative/Indie, Funk-Rock

On a Playlist With: Sublime, Radiohead

This year, 2022, is a great year to be a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP). Original guitarist John Frusciante is back, and with him, the band continues to offer their most solid work of the past decade. Their April release, “Unlimited Love,” is a prime example, launching the band atop the Billboard charts, securing a spicy No. 1 spot.

Six months later, the band is back with their newest album “Return of the Dream Canteen,” which feels like a fun yet slightly scaled back version of their previous one. However, “scaled back” does not necessarily minimize the staying power of RHCP’s new album, as there are plenty of moments where things heat up. However, it’s clear the band wanted to take a more mellow approach, and it slightly compromises the momentum the band built for themselves with “Unlimited Love.”

“Unlimited Love” was definitely the beginning of a transition back to the band’s funk roots, and it was a welcome one. However, with “Return of the Dream Canteen,” the band seems held back by some degree of monotony. There are moments throughout the band’s new 17-track LP where the listener is bound to ask, “Didn’t I hear this before?” 

For a band that established a reputation for themselves especially in the ’90s, as pioneers in the alternative rock sound, this rhythmic repetition is a bit disappointing. Specifically, if fans and listeners first listen to the album expecting the return of the RHCP’s brazen 1991 “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” or their 2006 anthemically stomping “Stadium Arcadium” eras, they aren’t getting that. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still the band they know and love.

The album opens with “Tippa My Tongue” — which has lead singer Anthony Kiedis diving into his signature funk-rap lyricism to deliver some of the trippiest vocals listeners have heard in a long time. As usual, bass guitarist Flea carries the track with his buggy and heavy strumming. This track is where RHCP do what they do best — blend hip-hop with funk and psychedelia to produce a sonic stimulant that listeners are bound to keep itching for throughout the rest of the album. More times than not, listeners get it, but when they don’t, the work definitely suffers for it. Examples of this include tracks like “Reach Out,” “Roulette” and “Handful” — all of which are too uninspiring to keep listeners engaged. 

“Return of The Dream Canteen” is a dreamy album full of hits and misses that  expertly blends the band’s signature funk energy with new psychedelic sounds, while occasionally getting trapped in monotony.

However, RHCP struck gold with “Eddie,” which serves as a heart-rending tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen. Lead guitarist Frusciante plays in such a profound manner that it feels less like he’s playing a guitar and more like he’s plucking away at listeners’ heart strings. “La La La La La La La La,” a truly sobering song, has Kiedis bearing his soul about his failed relationship with his ex-wife after a grueling custody battle over his young son — which he lost. 

“I wanna spin my wheels with you / Win and lose some deals with you / Tell me how it feels for you / To order happy meals for two,” Kiedis sings in the track.  

RHCP are still as effective of a band as they ever were. Yet their desire to dabble in the sounds of more psychedelic funk is either a massive hit or a tiring miss.

The most noticeable hits beyond “Tippa My Tongue” and “Eddie” are “Fake as Fu@k,” “Peace and Love” and “The Drummer,” which is definitely a percussive standout for all of the right reasons. As indicated by the title, this is a track where drummer Chad Smith gets to shine, as he delivers gospel-like drums that command listeners to get up out of their seats and dance the night away. This song is an instance where RHCP’s minimalistic approach works at its best — Kiedis sounds funkily energized spitting tongue-twistingly smooth and swift lyrics, like “Shut it up / Run it down / Live a life that’s underground / A heated love / That’s not allowed / A dum dum club is inadmissible.”

“Bella” and “My Cigarette” are definitely special tracks, with the former seeing Kiedis explore his expansive repertoire of poetics in what sounds like an adorable song about his dog. Kiedis still knows how to deliver an addictively catchy chorus as he sings, “Bella cries and that’s alright, she’s / Weepin’ on my shoulder again, well / Bella lies and that’s my type, I / Wish that I could hold her.” 

“My Cigarette” is a smokeshow of mystery, as the track has almost no sound beyond the ’80s-inspired synth-pop drums and Flea’s signature bass. Married with Kiedis’ crisply sharp rap vocals, it emphatically serves as a game changer for the album and makes one forget about the band’s shortcomings here.

The Bottom Line: “Return of The Dream Canteen” is a dreamy album full of hits and misses that  expertly blends the band’s signature funk energy with new psychedelic sounds, while occasionally getting trapped in monotony.

The Peaks: “Tippa My Tongue,” “Eddie,” “The Drummer,” “My Cigarette”

The Valleys: “Reach Out,” “Roulette,” “Handful”

The Verdict: 7/10