After almost 30 years of surviving tragedies, drug addictions, revolving members, and an ever-changing music scene, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have managed to keep their sound evolving and fresh. This feel good funky group from California was on a fantastic three album run with 1999's Californication, 2002's By The Way, and 2006's epic double disc, Stadium Arcadium. After touring constantly between each album's release, as well as branching out into other musical areas (Flea played bass on The Mars Volta's first album, De-loused in the Comatorium; John Frusciante released solo work and contributed several songs to The Mars Volta catalog), a longer than usual hiatus was agreed upon after the Stadium Arcadium tour wound down towards the end of 2007. During this time the Chili Peppers saw long time guitarist and brilliant musician John Frusciante amicably part ways to pursue his own vision of music and sound. To fill this large musical hole left in their line-up, the Chili Peppers eventually turned inward to an old friend, frequent collaborator and part time touring guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer. Recording started in 2010 in Los Angeles and Malibu for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 10th album, titled I'm With You.
There are some bands out there with an exponential amount of talent who eventually occupy an entire tier of their own. Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers have reached the point where critics stop comparing them to other artists and simply start comparing their own works to each other. I'm With You is once again a new type of Chili Peppers sound. After a drastic change in the line-up, it's interesting to see the similarities and differences from their most recent musical sprint, running from 1998-2007 and spanning the three previously mentioned albums.
I'm With You has the feel of a free flowing funky pop record, bringing the Peppers back to their roots of funk driven yet textured and polished sounds, once again provided by producer Rick Rubin. Drummer Chad Smith and Flea shine throughout the album, especially on songs like "Factory of Faith," "Ethiopia" and "Annie Wants a Baby." The symbiotic groove that Flea and Smith have developed over the years is nothing short of mesmerizing. The tight yet expansive and bubbling give and take between these two is what really holds this album together.
Anthony Kiedis has stuck to his bread and butter over the years, constantly coming up with quirky metaphors to weave within his lyrics while using a spoken word rap style contrasted by melodic singing that fits right in the funk mold shaped by Smith and Flea. Kiedis's lyrics and voice hit their high point in songs like "Meet Me at the Corner," "Police Station" and "Happiness Loves Company." Still, sometimes his choice of words, though trying to be toungue-in-cheek, comes off as cliché. Trying to rhyme "I like you cheeky" with "So Mozambique" on the song "Did I Let You Know" just ventures into the realm of silliness on an otherwise really cool song complemented by a laid back funky groove and a sweet clean riff by Klinghoffer.
Stepping into John Frusciante's shoes, Kilinghoffer does his best to maintain some of the sounds that have become staples in the Chili Peppers sound-scope. While the guitar was at the very core of the three previous Chili Peppers' records, Kilinghoffer's work on I'm With You is more of a complementary role. In songs like the opener "Monarchy of Roses," the distorted reverb, which swings into clean funk for the chorus, is a style that surfaces throughout the album. On "Look Around" and "Goodbye Hurray," Klinghoffer shines with his fast paced funk and lead riffing that comes the closest to cloning Frusciante's playing style.
Consequently, this reviewer's favorite songs on the album are "Look Around," "Goodbye Hurray," "Factory of Faith" and "Police Station." It seems that in his first go around, Klinghoffer complements the other band members perfectly, rather than leading them. He dips in and out of the grooves, laying down cleanly polished funk chords, every now and then mixing in a little reverb and distortion. He'll step to the lead and fire off some riffs that stay in step with the music rather than dominating over it.
No matter how this album sounded, it was going to have a tough time measuring up to any of the three albums that came before it, with Frusciante or without him. What's amazing about the Chili Peppers is that through all the line-up changes, they still manage to sound energetic and fresh each time they emerge with a new pallet of sounds. The album may be a little light compared to previous efforts, with some of the songs lacking the depth and textured complexity found on By the Way or Stadium Arcadium, but the consensus from the band in an interview with Rolling Stone is that this is a beginning. From a musical perspective that is true. If this is the line-up that will continue going forward than it is safe to say that the dynamic will change and shift as the band plays more often and the musicians learn each other's intricate musical tendencies.
Make no mistake though; this is still a solid album. It's a slightly softer but still deliberate version of funky rock with some brilliant song writing and producing, the latter courtesy of now legendary Rick Rubin. In a sea of ever churning and changing styles and sounds, it's nice to have such a brilliant constant like The Red Hot Chili Peppers - may they rock like this for another 30 years.
Favorite Album Tracks: "Look Around" "Goodbye Hooray" "Police Station"
Reviewer Bio - Tim Rosini is part of the editorial team at Onlinerock team. Having a background in English literature with a concentration in creative writing, Tim found himself working for various magazines and websites after moving out to the west coast last summer. Having the ability to adapt his focus from business writing to creative fiction he has found a great place to exercise his passion for music on the onlinerock website.