Tracking New Music Releases with Zac Wittman: Red Hot Chili Peppers, PUP, Meshuggah, Duster, Lobsterfight

Written By Zachary Wittman, Music Columnist

The wait is over for fans of bands new and old as many artists finally break lengthy gaps in releases, creating one of the most consistent weeks thus far.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love
Alternative Rock
Released April 1, 2022

3 Globes out of 5

It’s no secret that Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t been the most consistent or fondly loved band despite their immense popularity. Having been divisive figures with rabid fans and staunch haters for decades upon decades, they manage to persist through it all. In 2019, Josh Klinghoffer exited the band after 10 years and two albums, replaced by once longtime guitarist John Frusciante. With the classic lineup reunited once again, the hype for new Chili Peps material was immense.

That was until the album came out. Some heralded it as the return of rock music, some said it’s the worst album ever made, but most people agree that it’s fine, if not all that great. Even the most die-hard fans I know don’t know what to make of “Unlimited Love.” It is definitely the most relaxed album they have made, for better or for worse. Anthony Kiedis, a polarizing vocalist in his own right, doesn’t do anything too crazy on this record. His weird Irish pirate accent on opening track and lead single “Black Summer” is really stupid, but aside from that and some uncanny vocal processing here and there, he is mostly subdued and tolerable. His lyrics are as dumb as they have always been, but there aren’t any lines that are so outlandishly bad enough to highlight. His vocals are best when you ignore what he’s saying and just listen to the melodies. At least, that’s what you would do if there were any strong hooks to be found on this album.

Chad Smith sounds like he is barely giving it all on the kit. Even John feels incredibly underused, despite this record being his big return. Flea carries things somewhat, with his baselines being more funky and adventurous than the past few albums, but never straying too far away from being melodic. It would be nice to hear him let loose à la “Freaky Styley.”

The album isn’t entirely a wash. Much of the tediousness of this album comes in the hour plus runtime mixed with songs that are too long and underwritten. “Aquatic Mouth Dance” is a great update of “American Ghost Dance” and “Hump De Bump” with a horn section causing some calculated chaos at the end. “Not The One” would be an interesting direction for the band if the ideas they brought to the table weren’t stuffed into a boring piano ballad. “Poster Child” is the best of the singles, but it is still not as memorable as the majority of the singles from the Josh era. This album has some parallels with “Stadium Arcadium” in that a lot of the best songs are deep cuts. There is a lot of energy not found elsewhere on the album like in “These Are The Ways.” “White Braids & Pillow Chair” is the breeziest the group has sounded in a while, and I can actually imagine this one being a summer jam. “Veronica” has that stellar tremolo guitar from John that evolves into a sendup of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles at the end. John doesn’t get much time to shine, but the solo on “The Great Apes” reminds the listener why he is such a valued member of the band. His backing vocals across the album have also been greatly missed, with him even getting the chorus to late album highlight “The Heavy Wing” entirely to himself.

I don’t think the band are going to make another classic album. It seems we are in for more “Unlimited Love”s than “By The Way”s at this point. It could be worse, but it is really disappointing to wait so long for such a middle-of-the-road album.

PUP – The Unraveling Of PUPTHEBAND
Indie Rock
Released April 1, 2022

4 Globes out of 5

“The Unraveling Of PUPTHEBAND” has an unfair advantage to me. The day of its release, some friends and I went to go see PUP on the inaugural show of their US tour at the Roxian Theater. It was a killer good time filled with lots of screaming and jumping that left me feeling a lot better about this album over my initial listen.

I will start off by saying that this is simultaneously the most cohesive PUP album while also being their weakest. That being said, this is still an awesome album. It lacks any super immediate songs like “DVP” or “Kids,” but it makes up for it in its flow. “Four Chords” and its subsequent interludes throughout the album provide some humor that breaks up the self-deprecation found elsewhere. The singles definitely hit harder in an album context, but words cannot describe how hard “Totally Fine” and “Waiting” go live. The second half of the album is where the band really shine, with left turns like “Habits” or the trumpet on “Grim Reaping.” Vocalist Stefan Babcock sounds as great as ever, with his crooning on “Cutting Off The Corners” really hitting an emotional high on the album. If you had doubts upon first listen, then closer track “PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing For Bankruptcy” will certainly dispel them with its humorous lyrics, kinetic energy and squealing saxophone solo.

This all doesn’t make for the perfect PUP album, but it certainly makes for a great addition to their discography. It honestly feels like a bit of a transitional album given the different styles explored here. If you can, catch them live. You won’t regret it.

Meshuggah – Immutable
Released April 1, 2022

3.5 Globes out of 5

Disregarding their false start of a debut record, Meshuggah can easily be named as one of the most consistent metal bands working today. Since 1995, the band’s output has been incredibly consistent, delivering progressive metal records of the highest caliber. Despite pioneering the genre djent, which they coined, Meshuggah are definitely not for everyone. The downtuned guitars, polyrhythms, and harsh vocals do put them outside of the comfort zone for most listeners, but they have built a huge following nonetheless.

“Immutable” is the band’s 10th studio album and is arguably their most accessible to date. Without sacrificing the technicality, the band manage to hone their sound into one that can be digested by the wider metal crowd more easily. Whether it be the full on assault of “The Abysmal Eye” or the neck breaking groove of “Ligature Marks,” any metal fan can find something to latch on to. There are some moments that feel a bit more unusual. For example, “God He Sees In Mirrors” is nothing too out of the ordinary until a truly evil and cursed sounding guitar solo enters halfway through. It actually makes my skin crawl a little. As for other curious cases, the instrumentals provide both some of the best and blandest moments. “They Move Below,” the album’s longest song, is a monolith of riffs and solos that are truly memorable. “Black Cathedral” is meant to act as an intro track for the stellar “I Am That Thirst” due to the tremolo picking, but there is a pregap that keeps them from connecting. The closer “Past Tense” provides a nice atmosphere, but it is overall somewhat forgettable.

Djent as a genre faces the problem of repetition. While “Immutable” is an easy album to listen to, especially by Meshuggah’s standards, it is not an easy one to retain. The songwriting is strong and the performances are absolutely wicked, but it just isn’t sticking this time around. I think this album might grow with time, but it currently is on the lower end of an incredibly consistent discography.

Duster – Together
Released April 1, 2022

4 Globes out of 5

If there is a band that perfectly captures the feeling of just waking up in musical form, its Duster. After releasing two fiercely adored albums a little over 20 years ago, the band returned at the end of the last decade, picking up exactly where they left off. As if some cosmic joke to fit their space-themed music, the band had surprise released their fourth album on April Fool’s Day.

“Together” could be called the second of their new era, but truthfully the band has such an established sound that all of their albums can fit together despite the wide gaps. The hazy guitars, lethargic vocal delivery and sparse drumming keeps a sense of unity across all of their releases. Opener “New Directions” sets the stage perfectly for new listeners with its brooding drums and washed out guitar sulking along like a dejected dog. Despite how dry and warm Duster sounds, their music has a feeling of slowly walking in the rain at the end of a bad day after giving up and not caring how soaked you get. It’s this acceptance of melancholia that doesn’t feel exploitative, but instead off the cuff and unimportant. A malaise so affecting that you start to not notice it as it blends into everyday life.

Aside from lyrics about longing and existentialism, the music itself can easily appeal to indie fans of both old and new. Songs like “Retrograde” and “Sleepyhead” are not too dissimilar to many one person bedroom pop albums released nowadays. “Escalator” features some cool synth parts and acoustic guitars that make this song one of the most sonically interesting tracks on the album. There are some heavier moments on the record, such as the crushing shoegaze of “Making Room” or the jagged edges of “Feel No Joy.”

It is commentable that Duster have kept up such a coherent style for so long with so few releases.

Lobsterfight – Sun Soaking
Art Rock
Released March 31, 2022

4.5 Globes out of 5

I know that Brian Wilson isn’t dead, but it’s not hard to imagine that his ghost possessed the band known as Lobsterfight when making their second album. It is understandable if you are not familiar with the band. Lobsterfight reside somewhere alongside bands like Floral Tattoo, Your Arms Are My Cocoon, Weatherday and many more who do all the recording, mixing and releasing themselves. This internet era of indie and emo bands has shed some light on incredibly creative people, with Lobsterfight being one of them.

The band is a duo consisting of drummer James Gove and multi-instrumentalist Anguel Sanchez. “Sun Soaking” is their second album, a chaotic opus that is one half Beach Boys and one half Brave Little Abacus. Piano’s carry the majority of the record, bouncing around and crashing with the drums. Sanchez’s voice takes a little while to get used to, but many emo fans won’t find much of a problem with it. He enlists an armada of unconventional instruments, including melodicas, kalimbas, marimbas, clarinets, glockenspiels and so much more. This array of sounds comes together to make the songs sound truly like a summer to experience. Right from the getgo you can hear the melodic ability on display with opener “Grasshopper And I,” which explodes into one of the happiest sounding choruses imaginable. The epic “The Theme For This Evening’s Warm Dinner Salad” starts off sounding like the performers got pushed down the stairs, but it quickly transitions into a sunny boost of poetic euphoria.

Despite the happiness of the music, this song is bittersweet once you look at the words being sung. There are some truly happy moments though, such as “Harvest.” This song deals with dispelling the idea that your partner deserves better and working on being that better. The track fades out with an impassioned Sanchez screaming out “I love you more than you can ever imagine.” I wasn’t kidding with the Beach Boys comparison. Listen to “Afterwards” and try to not imagine a timeline where that song was on “Sunflower” or “Friends.”

I can keep pointing out moments on this album that make it such a delight, like the ending of “Let’s Run Through The Cornfield’s” or the clarinet on “…As We Commence (One Day At A Time),” but the best thing for you to do is go listen to this album. The production is a little rough and muddy at times, but it doesn’t take away too much. If they get a hi-fi studio budget and release something this quality again, then we might have a modern day masterpiece to come.