Review Explosion: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Yung Lean, Son House, & Johnny Marr

(Review Explosion, curated by contributing editor Malachi Lui, is AnalogPlanet’s guide to notable recent releases and reissues. It focuses on the previous few months’ new releases for which we don’t have time or energy to cover more extensively.)

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Unlimited Love

Warner Records 96/24 stream (2LP, CD, and cassette variants available)

Produced by: Rick Rubin
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: Ryan Hewitt
Mastered by: Bernie Grundman

Music: 5
Sound: 8

With Unlimited Love, the Red Hot Chili Peppers return for their first record since 2016’s The Getaway, and with guitarist John Frusciante the first since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium. While the classic lineup’s reunion seems exciting, the Rick Rubin-produced Unlimited Love lacks their best work’s energy and catchiness; it merely sounds like four middle-aged guys playing in a room, which listeners will either find enjoyably simple and pure, or exhaustingly uninteresting. I fall in the latter camp—the musicianship is top-notch as usual, though frontman Anthony Kiedis doesn’t have the occasional lyrical highlights and energetic vocals that usually make full RHCP albums at least somewhat worthwhile. Singles “Black Summer” and “These Are The Ways” find him pondering the state of the world, “Poster Child” is almost outlandishly referential, and we’ll diplomatically say that “Aquatic Mouth Dance” and “She’s A Lover” are RHCP songs that exist in 2022. Still, Unlimited Love isn’t meant to be a masterpiece, and it’s certainly listenable; between Frusciante’s return and the great-sounding analog recording, it’ll more than please most RHCP fans.

Weezer - SZNZ: Spring

Crush Music/Atlantic 96/24 stream (vinyl and CD available later)

Produced by: Jake Sinclair, Suzy Shinn, and Ethan Gruska
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: John Sinclair and Rob Kinelski
Mastered by: Bernie Grundman

Music: 5
Sound: 7

The first of a seasons-centered EP series (with each release interpolating Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons), Weezer’s SZNZ: Spring is yet another middling entry in the band’s frustratingly inconsistent catalog. While they’ve played it safe post-Pinkerton, Spring is remarkably inoffensive; there’s nothing about it to love or hate, and if it was in the children’s music section, few would bat an eye. It’s breezy and not terribly overproduced, though it takes about four minutes to realize it’s painfully boring. Lyrically, Rivers Cuomo spends the 21-minute duration singing hollow lines about Adam and Eve, the angels, and hearts overflowing with love (you don’t even hear him in interesting “nerdy dad” mode like on last year’s OK Human). Musically, Spring takes from the soft, melodic indie pop of XO-era Elliott Smith, except the clean modern production and generic songs makes it sound like background music for commercials advertising three-day mountain getaways at low prices. While I’d like to be optimistic about the rest of the SZNZ series, it’s probably best to not get too excited.

Yung Lean - Stardust

World Affairs/YEAR0001 44.1/24 stream (no physicals yet)

Produced by: Various
Engineered by: Uncredited
Mixed by: Uncredited
Mastered by: Uncredited

Music: 7
Sound: 7

The ever-prolific Swedish innovator Yung Lean (Jonatan Leandoer) recently released Stardust. It’s billed as a mixtape, yet arrives at a time of increased artistic recognition and features collaborations with FKA twigs, Skrillex, Bladee, Ecco2k, and Thaiboy Digital. Stardust is a solid Yung Lean project, but not an exceptional one; more than anything, it feels like a victory lap. Lyrically, he runs through the usual topics—drugs, girls, depression, and luxury—quite well, though he’s done it better before, and his vocals range from pleasantly dissonant to blatantly off-key. The mixtape’s production is heavy on nice but not particularly special synthscapes, though there are some more interesting moments: the pop-minded coldwave of the FKA twigs-featuring “Bliss” (which prominently samples Soviet post-punk band Alyans’ “Ha 3ape”), the dreamlike bubbling synths on “Trip,” and the Burial-esque drums on the Skrillex-co-produced “Lips” (there are producers who are better at ripping off Burial, though Skrillex imitating Burial is far less obnoxious than Skrillex doing Skrillex). While Stardust doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking, it’s a good mixtape from a restlessly creative legend who’s far from finished.

Son House - Forever On My Mind

Easy Eye Sound 44.1/24 stream (LP variants and CD available)

Produced by: Dan Auerbach and Dick Waterman
Engineered by: M. Allen Parker
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound

Music: 7
Sound: 8

There are only a few musically and sonically good live recordings of Delta blues legend Son House, though now among them is Forever On My Mind, released by Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound. Culled from the archives of blues historian and manager Dick Waterman (who, along with Nick Perls and Phil Spiro, rediscovered House in 1964), Forever On My Mind captures a full November 23, 1964 live performance at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where House played eight songs for an audience of around 50 people. While he recorded seven of these songs for the following year’s essential Father Of Folk Blues, he never officially recorded this release’s title track; “Forever On My Mind” doesn’t particularly stand out among House’s material from this era, but it’s a welcome if belated addition to his catalog. The rest of the show captures him in excellent, sober form, and the sound quality, while imperfect, lets his voice and dobro shine clearly. Forever On My Mind isn’t mandatory listening for those who aren’t hardcore blues enthusiasts or historians, but it’s still a historically important recording that’s wonderful to finally hear.

Johnny Marr - Fever Dreams Pts 1-4

BMG/New Voodoo NVLP005T limited edition turquoise vinyl 2LP

Produced by: Johnny Marr and Doviak
Engineered by: Russ Miller at The Crazy Face Factory
Mixed by: Claudius Mittendorfer
Mastered by: Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road

Music: 5
Sound: 6

Johnny Marr’s new 73-minute double album Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 isn’t offensively bad, though I can’t say it’s worth your time or money. The 16 songs, sequenced in four equal parts, are competent, but far from interesting or profound; Marr’s legacy of course lies as a guitarist, not as a lyricist or solo act. His guitar playing is on autopilot here, and Fever Dreams Pts 1-4’s bland, electronically textured indie rock long overstays its welcome. Maybe it’s best enjoyed in those four separate parts, but as a full work it’s a bloated slog of musical wallpaper. File under “For Smiths [& Electronic] Completists Only.”

Still, I ended up with a copy of the “limited edition” turquoise vinyl 2LP, which through a record store giveaway I won with a signed album cover print. Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road mastered digital files and cut lacquers, and the mastering is compressed and sounds optimized more for digital than vinyl. Unfortunately, those lacquers were then plated and pressed at Poland’s Takt Direct, and like everything else I’ve heard from Takt Direct, the sound is dry and dead compared to the digital counterparts. Both discs in my copy were slightly warped and had some light noise, though the turquoise color looks good and despite the underwhelming design, the high-gloss gatefold jacket and printed inner sleeves feel nice. I’m happy to have the vinyl and signed poster, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it (signed bundles were also available via his webstore, and aren’t too hard to find).

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music obsessive, avid record collector, and art enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.)

COMMENTS
jazz's picture

the intention of most of the reviews published here aside of Michael’s, which more often than not have no better than a 7 rating of either sound or music (often both and partly even worse). What’s the meaning of discussing rather bad releases in series, especially as they usually even are rather sleepers, no one would care about except if pointed to them?

MalachiLui's picture

what you're missing is that a 7/10 isn't mediocre or bad. it's good. michael's rating scale is a lot more generous than mine, which i think is something we'd both acknowledge. my scale is as such:

11/10 - not used anymore
10/10 - absolutely perfect, extremely rare
9/10 - masterpiece, essential
8/10 - great, important
7/10 - definitely good even if not next-level amazing, a recommended release that i'd most likely listen to a lot
6/10 - alright, decent enough but not terribly special
5/10 - listenable, average leaning towards bad
4/10 - mediocre
3/10 - bleh
2/10 - really bad
1/10 - the worst thing you've ever heard

once again, i'll link my rateyourmusic page, because my rating scale is there and you can also see my ratings for every release i can remember listening to.

https://rateyourmusic.com/~MalachiLui

jazz's picture

I guess my perception was different because in Michael’s scale I’d historically see a 7 as more or less average or below and quite some review explosion candidates also have worse ratings.

It’s probably really the problem of concentrating on releases between 9 and 11, as there are enough of them available fortunately. But I agree that the scale should probably be used more generously ;-)

RVG Edition's picture

...with every review explosion, perhaps it's time to recalibrate.

MalachiLui's picture

it's plenty clear by now that michael and i have different rating scales. i've explained mine exhaustively already. michael is a lot more generous with his ratings, which is fine. his reviews, his ratings. my reviews, my ratings.

also, i find these complaints about my rating scale to be absolutely hilarious. it's like you guys don't read any other music reviews from anywhere else. for example, 8.0 and above on pitchfork qualifies as "BEST new music." in fact, they even point it out in red text to tell you "we think this is an important record you should listen to." many reviews there are positive reviews that have a 7 point something score, meaning the reviewers think those records are definitely good, but maybe not the most essential thing in the world. anthony fantano from theneedledrop has a similar scale. 7/10 very good, 8/10 excellent, 9/10 rare masterpiece.

to anyone skimming these reviews only willing to read about or buy records with a 9-11/10 score: you are incredibly misguided. 10's are INCREDIBLY rare. let's look at those publications/reviewers mentioned above. anthony fantano has given only seven 10/10 scores in his decade-plus reviewing career. the last two 10's that pitchfork gave for new releases were for fiona apple's 'fetch the bolt cutters' in 2020, and before that kanye's 'my beautiful dark twisted fantasy' in 2010.

as for my personal ratings? i have 11 10/10 scores over the entire history of recorded music. i give around 2-3 9/10 scores per year on average (some exceptions though), and maybe around 10-20 8/10's each year. no, it's not that there isn't good music coming out these days. it's that my rating system is reasonably reserved, as well as in line with most other people's rating systems. i have friends who will give a 6 to something they really like and regularly listen to. at least i'm more generous than that.

M456's picture

Dude, there's a reason I read Analog Planet instead of Pitchfork or Anthony Fabiano's youtube channel. You're taking one of the best websites for reviewing audio quality and turning into another boring hype machine. Like the other guy said, if you're constantly having to bicker with your readers, maybe you should take a critical look at what you're doing and change something (or just go work at Pitchfork).

As for the chili peppers album, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you listened to the digital version. The vinyl sounds much better. Would love to hear what Michael thinks of the sound quality on that one.

MalachiLui's picture

not trying to turn this site into a "boring hype machine," just reviewing what's relevant. and if half of it's not great, then half of it's not great. and i'm not bickering with my readers, my readers are bickering with me. michael still runs this site and still seems to find my stuff worth posting. if you'd like to tell him how to run his site, his email is under the "contact us" section.

yes, i listened to the digital version of the chili peppers album, cuz i didn't like the music enough to pay $40 for it. i also specified in the format field of my review that i listened to the stream. i think michael is getting the vinyl, maybe he'll post something about it, not sure.

M456's picture

My original post was a genuine attempt to provide constructive criticism because I see the same problem emerging every time you post one of your reviews. Instead of taking anyone's suggestions into consideration, you repeatedly post passive-aggressive responses in the comments section. That's bickering.

Just to recap with respect to the chili peppers: You published a review for Analog Planet, but you chose to listen to the digital version instead of a widely available vinyl record, even though the album in question was recorded to tape and cut to vinyl by Bernie Grundman. Doesn't that seem like an odd choice to you?

MalachiLui's picture

first of all, we've gone over this before. review explosions are very often reviews of digital releases to give guidance as to what you should consider spending money on vinyl of. plus, i don't have all the money in the world to buy every single album on vinyl for review. if you're willing to spend $40 to buy me the chili peppers vinyl, for example, i'll review the vinyl. but i sure as hell am not spending $40 of my own money on an album i don't care for musically. and if you're going to argue about my format choice for a music-centered album review, then it makes me want to purchase the record in question even less.

M456's picture

Malachi, your scale fundamentally doesn't make sense to me, particularly for sound quality.

Thanks for laying out your methodology in response to Jazz above. But how in the world does one distinguish between an 8 ("great, important,") (9 "masterpiece, essential") or 10 ("absolutely perfect")? How can sound quality ever be "important" or "essential"? Even if you are able to explain the difference in the abstract, is there really that much of a difference between an album rated 10 and an album rated 8, aside from your personal musical preference? I read Analog Planet to learn from someone with an extremely revealing audio system and more discerning ears than mine, and your reviews miss the mark.

You described the Chili Peppers album as "a great sounding analog recording." In your mind, does it make sense for something "great sounding" to score an 8/10 in sound quality? 8/10 is 80%, or a 2.7 GPA on most grading scales.

Michael's album reviews and his easily digestible rating system is what first drew me to this website years ago (and I like the 11/10 - to me it means "stop thinking about it and buy this now!") I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Most readers skim the numerical ratings before actually reading, and a constant sea of 6/7/8 ratings doesn't bode well for an interesting review. At the end of the day this website is meant to be informative and entertaining, and your approach to these ratings is just flat out boring. I'm much closer in age to you than to Michael, but I just can't relate to your approach here. Oh and Tranquility Base is by far Arctic Monkeys' worst album.

Glotz's picture

Is unbearable. Stop.

M456's picture

Which part of my response is minutiae? The part where I made a genuine comment about the reviewer's rating system which has been brought up dozens of times by other people on this site?

galacticz00's picture

and so rare. Thanks Malachi and keep up the good work. As a long term fan of RHCP I am pretty disappointed by the new album. I do find your derogatory remark "four middle-aged guys playing in a room" although accurate is rather ageist but likewise understandably from one so young. Mediocrity is not necessarily a consequence of maturity.

MalachiLui's picture

btw, i didn't mean that "four middle-aged guys" comment in an ageist way, i can see how it might be perceived as such but i meant that as simply a fact, nothing more. it is true that many creatives around their age are past their prime, but that's for the reader to decide.

fruff1976's picture

At 46, I guess I fit into this category and I'm ok with it.

Glotz's picture

The latest Son House album! Your insights into the Red Hot's album is spot on. I wish I would've snatched up "Father.." last year.

While the new RCHP recording does sound great, the songs aren't dynamic or engaging. I cannot hear a single memorable tune on here outside of Aquatic, which is just disheartening. I've been a semi-fan since 1984's IRS 'The Cutting Edge' tv show on MTV, and this new release has none of the raucous intensity of their yesteryears. Strangely it is the best selling rock album this year.

Used to be a big Smith's fan, but that was 35+ years ago.. when I was your age! lol... I get to use old people talk now.. though I ain't the least bit old. I 'discovered' RCHP, The Smiths, Midnight Oil, INXS and Dire Straits for most of my friends in high school back in the 80's. I think Johnny Marr's latest would bore me a bit, given the last album he released, but it will take some fair play listening first.

Thanks for these candid reviews where you tell it as you hear it.

ArcAudio's picture

The music is ok....just not great. I do think Rick Rubin as a producer gets long in the tooth nowadays.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was Malachi!
Fsonicsmith's picture

there is nothing more awkward in human development-other than popping involuntary boners while sitting in class next to hot girls who squeal in laughter-than being both serious and very intelligent. It is a curse that fortunately subsides. This young man seemingly makes a point of conveying to the reader that he has extensive temporal experience with musicians who died before he was born (needless to say the "temporal" is absurdly impossible) and goes to great efforts to sound blase'/unimpressed as if doing so elevates his stature.
Now all that said, Malachi veers from reporting on the more widely recognized artists and releases to the more eclectic and unknown. Both categories often warrant lukewarm reception.

MalachiLui's picture

what do those first two sentences have to do with anything here???

Fsonicsmith's picture

being awkward as part and parcel of being very intelligent and young. You've got far more going for you than I had at your age and though I don't know anything about your high school years, I can pretty much guarantee you that mine were more awkward.

Jazz listener's picture

I don’t actually read Mallachi’s reviews anymore (I’m mostly not interested in his musical tastes and I simply prefer to spend my limited spare time reading reviews from more established writers with more lived experience).

No, I come here to read the comments, lmao. These are much more entertaining! And when I see 20+ comments next to one of his reviews I just know Malachi is trolling the comments and we have ourselves a part underway, lol.

“I’m not bickering with my readers, they’re bickering with me” lmfao. So says the young kid (and by the way, that’s not an ageist statement or a slight Malachi, just a statement of fact) who endlessly trolls the comment section of his reviews. Priceless!

A couple of comments guys (also not intended as a slight, just a statement of fact, I mean, we’re all guys here right?). Anyway, here we go:

1) Malachi, your rating scale is ridiculous. I know it, you know it, Mikey knows it, your mother probably knows it, and so does your dog.

2) you need to stop trolling the comment section of your reviews and picking fights with anyone and everyone who offers up a different viewpoint than your own or criticism. It smacks of a desperate need to be right, attention seeking and desperation.

3) you need to fess up that Glotz is really you, or a deranged friend or relative, and shut that down.

Cheers!

MalachiLui's picture

glotz is not me, nor is he a person i know in any setting outside of this comments section. if you're asking me to confess something that simply isn't true, then you're the deranged one here.

Jazz listener's picture

you can remove the hook from your mouth now…

Glotz's picture

right back in your mouth.

PS- You wouldn't know humor if it smacked you upside the face.

You just confuse it with contempt...

anodyne jones's picture

Totally agree with your post. ML I am sure is a nice kid, but clearly spends way too much time in the comments section. He is barely out of puberty and wants to run with the big dogs.

Clearly, spending a lot of time with Fremer has rubbed off on him..there is a palpable narcissistic streak in his posts, and also the hyper-defensive posture. The music reviews are indeed a total waste of time. This boy needs to earn his stripes.

Fremer originally brought him on here because IMO he is incredibly lazy and wanted someone to help out and probably thought it was somewhat of a novelty to have a 13 old kid post about vinyl and music. The fact that a Kanye West post appeared on this blog renders it mostly useless at this point. Time to earn back some credibility.

ML could use a little modestly until until he is actually old enough to drink a beer.

jamesgarvin's picture

big dogs are toy poodles who think barking loud makes them big dogs. Sometimes a mirror can help put things in perspective.

Glotz's picture

The two little dogs up above here think they're real men, huh.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The dude is like 17, and still way more stable and mature than the two of you trolls put together and still embarrasses the lot of you shit-talkers.

A mirror indeed.

jamesgarvin's picture

who you are referring to by "you two trolls," but if one of those trolls to whom you refer is me, well, perhaps you should read my post, and to whom I was responding. Or read it again. Or however many times it takes.

jamesgarvin's picture

I don't have an interest in most of his reviews. And sometimes (in my humble opinion) he writes statements that appear designed to illicit a response rather than adding substance to the review. And there have been occasions when I've said so here. But I am continuously shocked at the personal attacks towards ML rather than the substance of his reviews. It's funny. I've subscribed to Downbeat for more then thirty years. I don't recall bitching in the Letters section about obscure music releases they review. ML has the excuse of youth. Most of the posters making personal attacks against him don't. Perhaps it is because too many audiophiles spend so much time in seclusion that they have lost social skills, much like blind cave fish have spent so much time in dark caves they lack eyes. In any event, reading middle age and older males personally attacking ML is, again, in my humble opinion, quite pathetic.

PeterPani's picture

I like your review explosions. The most important fact about a new release is the music itself. If I find a review of the music itself good I listen to the music digital on my Ipod. If the content is very good - than I go on search to find the music on an analog carrier - for older music I look for reel-to-reel or Laserdiscs first. Actual releases vinyl or MC. But the first impulse is always the music. And your taste is a fine taste and a good guide.
Anyway - even your haters read your reviews and comment on it.

Lemon Curry's picture

Malachi, I hadn't realized you listened to only the digital of Unlimited Love. There's a very widespread problem with disk 2 of the vinyl where distortion is very prominent. It is minor much of the time, then gets quite loud, as loud as any instrument in the track being played. Are you aware of this? I have one of those bad copies - sending it back to Amazon, hoping for the best. I'm not sure of the pressing plant, all the jacket says is made in Canada. I would be curious for some followup on this from you, since so much is being made of the AAA project and the B Grundman mastering.

MalachiLui's picture

i think michael ordered the vinyl of it, but i'm not 100% sure. regarding the pressing details, the north american version with the "made in canada" sticker was probably done by precision record pressing, which is run by GZ (there are GZ numbers in the runouts, from what i see on discogs). it looks like optimal plated the NA version which was then sent to GZ for further processing and pressed at either there or precision, though the EU pressing was plated and pressed by optimal. all good facilities though so i'm not sure what the issue could've been from, hoping that if michael has the vinyl he can report on this more than i can.

Lemon Curry's picture

I asked for an exchange and got a German pressing, which was a pleasant surprise. The Canadian one was a mess when I slid the vinyl from the sleeves - needed a very good cleanup before getting anywhere near my table. The German pressing was spotless, and both disks perfect.

If you are looking to pick up a copy, check for the Made in Germany sticker on the bottom right of the back cover, lest you get troubled disk 2.

...and while this isn't Californication, it's age-appropriate rock/funk that gets better and better with the volume up!

Archimago's picture

As one who doesn't care much about analogue hardware or vinyl (beyond the occasional purchase as a collectable), I find myself popping by mainly to read the album reviews and catching up on news!

Yeah, Malachi exudes a bit of teenage angst, but that's OK. I have teens at home and it's like that...

A few points:

1. Music/album reviews are mostly subjective affairs. Therefore, reviewers have the right to grade the album in whatever fashion seems appropriate to them. While I like some of Kanye's music (and would disagree with him being any kind of "genius"), I appreciate Malachi's harder stance on music ratings especially for new artists. There's too much new music out there so for a reviewer to critically separate the "wheat from the chaff" is the fundamental job. I agree that there should be few albums that make the grade of 8+/10.

2. Fremer often reviews reissues. These are typically albums that have stood the test of time already! So for the music to be rated higher is not unreasonable. What's more interesting with those reviews are the relative sound quality ratings if one is interested in picking up the LP.

3. The new RHCP album isn't bad - even in digital. I'm not the biggest fan, but if I were, I might consider this as one of their stronger albums. Again, this is subjective. What Malachi said:

"it merely sounds like four middle-aged guys playing in a room, which listeners will either find enjoyably simple and pure, or exhaustingly uninteresting. I fall in the latter camp—the musicianship is top-notch as usual, though frontman Anthony Kiedis doesn’t have the occasional lyrical highlights and energetic vocals that usually make full RHCP albums at least somewhat worthwhile."

Isn't unfair and clearly states his subjective preference as one who might find this kind of music "uninteresting". So be it... This is no different than being aware that he's a "Ye" fan, and suspect that he might rate a Kanye album higher than I would.

Considering the lack of "audiophile" music reviews of new music, I consider Malachi's contribution of value and when he rates a new album as 8+, I'd certainly be curious to have a listen and see if I agree with his assessment.

Tom L's picture

that so many people are terribly offended by Malachi's contributions and take themselves so seriously. These are just music reviews, not rewrites of the Bible, or the Koran, or the Talmud. We're all free to have our own opinions of the music itself, so why be bothered by what others think?

SloppyJoeBuck's picture

...because they really bring out the overgrown babies.

And what's with some of y'all feeling the need to talk about puberty and boners and shit? Sigmund Freud-ass weirdos.

cement_head's picture

I think your review for UL by RHCP is way off - it's an excellent record and fantastic playing. The only knock is that they should have gotten a producer to help them. Rick Rubin isn't very good, his name is largely marketing, mainly because he doesn't do anything (anymore).

Steve From Tassie's picture

Wow. I enjoy reading other's views of music. I don't care whether it is Allmusic, Pitchfork, Fantano, Rolling Stone, Guardian, Malachi...

I believe Malachi's reviews are his honest impressions of the music he listens to, and at least he's willing to put it on the line by publishing his views. I don't see any reviews by the naysayers here...

xokeni1395's picture

It's interesting to see different perspectives on their latest album. | https://www.delawaredrywallers.com

Ethan Walker's picture

This review provides a balanced assessment of the album, acknowledging both its strengths and weaknesses while ultimately recognizing its appeal to the band's fanbase. EB2-NIW visa

Laura Holand's picture

This genre explosion definitely piques curiosity and invites exploration of these artists and their music.
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