The First: Band That Ever Betrayed Me

A series exploring first musical experiences…


I was 13 in 1993 when I discovered the Red Hot Chili Peppers. My brother in law lent me a pirated cassette of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and it changed the way I heard music. Until then I had dabbled with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, embracing the grunge movement but not feeling like it really spoke to me. They were gloomy adult bands and the stunted emotional maturity and earnest optimism of Red Hot Chili Peppers was perfect for a teenage boy. Sure, they had their sad songs and they had their drug problems, but they also had a guitarist and a bass player who could create magic.

Tacked onto the end of the C-90 cassette was The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. This discovery led me to their back catalogue and I snapped up Freaky Styley, the self-titled debut, Mother’s Milk and my own copies of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. It was the first time I had truly immersed myself in a band and its history. I read everything I could, learning about their formation, the death of original guitarist Hillel Slovak, the arrival and departure of John Frusciante, and their acquisition of Dave Navarro on guitar. This set up 1995 to be the year that I was a fully paid up fan. I was at the bleeding edge of Chili Pepper fandom and the anticipation of their new record was at fever pitch.

I had never before been so in love with a band. I listened to them every day, knew every pornographic lyric Anthony Kiedis had sung in his four-note range, knew every guitar riff, and every bass line. I dreamed of seeing them live and imagined how it would feel to have my life completed in such a way. I lined up and pre-ordered their new record. I had to put a $5 deposit down to secure a copy of the limited edition, individually numbered gold CD. Limited edition took on new meaning when the CD I received was numbered 350 000.

Then the day came. One Hot Minute was released. And it sucked.

There is argument among the faithful over who is the definitive Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist. Some say Frusciante, who presided over their most commercially successful records, while others maintain that Slovak remains the original and the best with Freaky Styley a testament to his funk chops.

All I know for certain is that Navarro is most definitely not it.

The guitars were all wrong, there was no funk, no slink, no sultry, and the lyrics were even more woefully adolescent than usual. Navarro’s style was too traditional and he lacked any kind of chemistry with Flea, the foundation stone of every Chili Peppers’ record.

I really tried my hardest to like One Hot Minute. I listened to it a lot. I watched the videos. Stuck a poster of the band on my wall and as much as I could convince people I liked their latest record in spite of reviews to the contrary, I couldn’t fool myself. The spell had been broken and no amount of wishful thinking could heal the cracks in my heart.

I saw them live the next year and it was underwhelming, partly because they weren’t very good, but mostly because they didn’t feel like the band I had fallen for.

In hindsight, it was almost inevitable that I would be let down. My fandom coincided with their least productive period as a band. Heroin addiction and personality clashes affected their musical output and it would eventually end with Dave Navarro being fired from the band. They have since disowned the record and only play “Pea” in live shows anymore. John Frusciante returned and they made Californication, which was a vast improvement, but listening to that, and By The Way, was fueled more by nostalgia than their renaissance.

This pattern of obsession and disappoint would repeat itself with other bands, notably and embarrassingly with Manic Street Preachers. But as much as I would fall in love with other musicians’ work, and even harder than I had with the Chili Peppers, the first heartbreak still stings 20 years later.

The First: Band That Ever Betrayed Me

A series exploring first musical experiences…


Senses Fail are one of my all-time favourite punk bands…well, they were. The 2004 album ‘Let it Enfold You’ and 2006 follow up ‘Still Searching’ are two of my favourite albums. Reflecting on why I love these records so much, I realise I have odd emotional connections with music. Rather than just judging something on its technical brilliance or lyrical genius, I like music that seems relevant to me at particular times. However, as much as I love these two records, I can’t bring myself to enjoy their latest efforts.

In 2008 they released ‘Life is Not a Waiting Room’, their sound was still quite enjoyable and similar to previous records, but there was something empty about the lyrics. I still to this day am yet to listen to it in its entirety without getting bored. Much to my delight the 2010 release ‘The Fire’ pulled me back in with heavier music, melodic choruses and mature lyrics that still carried the same weight as their older songs.

Naturally, I was super keen for the release of their next album ‘Renacer’ in 2013. But to put it nicely, it sucked. The pop-punk vibe was gone and there was now a heavy emphasis on a more classic punk sound, fast drums, screeching/talking vocals and hardly a single song that had the catchy vocals and lyrics that Buddy Nielsen is famous for. Gone were the emotive words and personal stories, instead replaced with odd songs with repetitive screams of things like “silver and gold”…what does that even mean?! Are we singing about jewellery? Had they competed in some kind of Olympic event I was unaware of? WHAT?

I chalked up this whole disappointment of a record to being a result of experimentation.

Then it was announced that Senses Fail were releasing a sixth effort. ‘Pull the Thorns from Your Heart’ was released 30th June 2015 — I have never been more disappointed. The singing is minimal, the old-school/classic messy punk sound is all over the record and there is not a single track that I have managed to listen to in its entirety.

I loved this band, their lyrics, melodies and pop-rock sound grew and changed as I needed them to. But these last two albums have put me off completely. If you asked me in 2013 who I would kill to see live, it would’ve been Senses Fail – hands down. Now, I am struggling to care if they stopped playing altogether.