CD Review: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, "I'm With You."
Published: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 12:39am
Before I heard a single track from The Red Hot Chili Pepper's newest album, I'm With You, I predicted I couldn't expect much from the album. After all, the Chili Peppers lost their long-time guitarist John Frusciante and this is their first record with his replacement, Josh Klinghoffer. Frusciante's absence from the album is obvious.
So I had a nervous feeling in early August when I finally heard "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" from the Chili Pepper's upcoming album, "I'm With You." The single was too mellow and repetitive; the repetition was only exacerbated by the lack of a unique guitar solo.
When I listened to "I'm With You" on Aug. 30, the album's release date, most noticeable to me was the album's inconsistency.
The first track, "Monarchy of Roses," is disorienting in the beginning with muffled, distorted singing by lead singer Anthony Kiedis, and similar guitar playing by Klinghoffer. The song eventually transforms into an upbeat melody that coalesces into wonderful vocal layering at the end.
"Factory Of Faith," and "Look Around" are both sung by a seemingly tired or uninterested Kiedis; the former has a fun bass line and somewhat Frusciante-esque melody while it is lyrically unimpressive (if not laughable), while the latter has very little to it structurally other than Kiedis' rapping and a noisy farrago of percussion and guitar.
The better songs on the album tend to be the more energetic pieces. The style of "Did I Let You Know" is like that of a less erotic "Cabron" (from By The Way), plus it has relaxing but not lethargic guitar playing that nicely complements Kiedis' vocals. "Goodbye Hooray" almost falls into this category but it is too messy and it simply isn't fun or interesting to hear.
I think one of the best songs on the album is "Brendan's Death Song," for its distinctive guitar and vocal melody, Kiedis' strong vocal performance, and drummer Chad Smith's minimalist drumming. "Police Station" also ranks at the top even though it is slow-going because of its powerful choruses and its eerie piano part.
"Happiness Loves Company" begins with a confident piano part and leads to a cheerful melody and lyrics. The last song on the album that is worth discussing in a positive light is "Even You Brutus." In this song, Kiedis is at his best with his combination of rapping and singing, and he's backed up by Frusciante-style rhythm guitar and a prominent keyboard part that mixes wonderfully.
"I'm With You" is highlighted by those songs, and more generally, the keyboard compositions, Kiedis' vocals occasionally, and the few songs where the band members don't sound at odds with each other. Perhaps most disappointing is that Flea's hard-hitting bass playing has mostly been relegated to background, as he lacks any substantial or interesting solo on the album.
Overall, the album is a far cry from the distinctive funk rock style of the Chili's fifth album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and despite the fact that the Chili Pepper's have been becoming more melodic recently, especially in By The Way and Stadium Arcadium, this album mostly lacks the singularity and originality of those earlier albums. Perhaps the next album The Red Hot Chili Peppers make will be better after they play with Klinghoffer for awhile, develop their chemistry, and collectively mature. If not, I'd hate to see the band out of sync and in a funk.