July 15, 2002 12:00 PM

Red Hot Chili Peppers (Warner Bros.)

Album of the week

First Prince swore off cursing, then Mick Jagger was knighted. Now it seems the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose founding members Anthony Kiedis (on vocals) and Flea (on bass) are turning 40 this fall, are finally growing up. Following 1999’s Californication, the Chili Peppers have largely put aside their raucous and raunchy funk-rockers with titles like “Suck My Kiss.” On tracks that are striking for their restrained, sweet-sounding beauty, they’re more like the Real Mild Chili Peppers. This shouldn’t come as a total surprise, since the quartet has proven capable of calibrated introspection and melody-rich pop on past hits such as “Under the Bridge” and “Otherside.” But here, those moments are the rule rather than the exception. Layering songs such as the dreamy “Universally Speaking” with sunny, ’60s-style background vocals and trippy psychedelia, they bring a lightness to even the moodier numbers. Kiedis, whose lyrics were inspired by a romance that ended during the recording of this album, rises to the occasion with affecting singing throughout. And even though they don’t get to rock out much, Flea and versatile guitarist John Frusciante still pack a potent one-two punch.

Bottom Line: Ripe Chili Peppers

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