After 2006’s bloated 28-track ‘Stadium Arcadium’, Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with a new lead guitarist, a handlebar moustache, and a new album, offering flirtations of rock, funk and disco (yes, disco). Following a career that has spanned over 30 years, bassist Flea cites “life and death” as the major theme of ‘I’m With You’, their 10th album. For the most part, it’s business as usual….and that’s not such a bad thing.
You can’t argue with RHCP quality control. Looking at their contemporaries (U2, Coldplay, Green Day), no-one has been as consistent in their sound than the Chilis. ‘I’m With You’ presents a chance to divert from their standard flavour of California, sun and sex following the departure of lead guitarist John Frusciante.
New axe-slinger Josh Klinghoffer makes his mark early on on opener ‘Monarchy of Roses’, but plays it safe for the majority of this album, before unleashing on the coda of ‘Goodbye Hooray’. Frusciante’s absence is noted, but hasn’t made as much of a dent as many predicted. Elsewhere, Flea’s basslines reach epic new highs and really define this album.
If there is a weak link, it’s with Anthony Kiedis. His lyrics and delivery are lazy and at times ridiculous. In ‘Ethopia’ he appears to turn to ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ for inspiration:
Ee aa oh aa ee ah eh, when you give your love away
You get a feeling for…
Ee aa oh aa ee ah eh, live your love another day,
Even when you feel unsure
The highlight comes early-on, with the album’s only ballad, ‘Brendan’s Death Song’. Written for their friend Brendan Mullen, who died in 2009. According to Anthony Kiedis, he was told about Mullen’s death on the first day of rehearsals for this album. He informed the band of Mullen’s passing and without talking, the band quickly started to play music and the song came to the band quickly out of a jam. Kiedis describes the song as having the feel of a death march but “it’s more of a celebration than a bummer.”
There’s something very endearing about a group of near-50 year olds wanting to give the impression of being young and trendy. To a certain extent, here, they pull it off (along with their tops -see video below), but the overwhelming feeling is that they’ve lost some of the greatness that punctuated 1999’s ‘Californication’.
If you don’t buy the album, download The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie, Brendan’s Death Song, Happiness Loves Company.