Red Hot Chili Peppers – [Album]

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hey – remember when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the most fun in rock? Between fifteen and twenty-five years ago, RHCP was absolutely outrageous – they'd slap socks on their cocks while gibbering “Those fuckers are red hot” and dance like Iggy Pop while standing in line at a coffee shop and plan uplifting mofo parties while on camera with Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Dana Carvey just for kicks. It was great but, as silly as they were prone to being, their ace in the hole was the fact that they were also able to be reflective and heart-wrenchingly honest when it really mattered. None of that happened much anymore after Dave Navarro blew in for one hot minute and rocked out before taking off and John Frusciante came back after a break with a brand new arty and math-y bent. There was still the odd bit of goofiness then – like the muttering of some gibberish at the end of a life-changing trip around the world – but it was more wry; almost like a concession made by the band for fans hoping for the same kind of fun possessed by any of the band's first six albums. That isn't to say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers' serious side didn't have its place (the band proved they could be auteurs definitively as they gazed at their navels and scar tissue) but, the more that time wore on, the more that listeners began to wonder if they would ever remember how to laugh.

It took a while, but the Chili Peppers have realigned their sound with the help of guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (a journeyman session guitarist who has previously played with the likes of PJ Harvey, Gnarls Barkley, Beck and Butthole Surfers) and rediscovered the balance for their music which lets them rock hard, bare their souls and get a few grins on I'm With You – the band's tenth studio album.

Listeners will know that something is different from the moment “Monarchy Of Roses” crashes (literally) to life and opens the gates on the record. With enormous, poly-rhythmic drums, a danceable bass and guitars which split their time between screaming and gyrating, the Red Hot Chili Peppers pinwheel their way in on a vibe that's more disco than funk, but no less urgent or anthemic. With that undercurrent flowing quickly beneath him, singer Anthony Kiedis crests in like the final horseman and the equation is complete; for the first time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are balancing poetry with rock and rhythm and urgency and you can almost hear them smiling as they do it. They know as well as listeners do that they're back and in very, very good form.

Without bothering to stop and marvel at it themselves, the band just keeps on the vibe and gets even more dance-y for “Factory Of Faith” (which sounds like it could very well have come off The Uplift Mofo Party Plan – although slightly less impressed with the action between the band's own legs than that album was) before breaking stride for a bit of introspection about mistakes made and friends departed on “Brendan's Death Song” and the more strident “Ethiopia.”

Really, the emotional center of “Brendan's Death Song” and “Ethiopia” isn't so different, all the contrast lies in the composition and presentation of them. As was the case between “Under The Bridge” and “I Could Have Lied” (this comparison is made on purpose, not out of ignorance), the Chili Peppers mine similar thematic ground between “Brendan's Death Song” and “Ethiopia” but achieve a different result because of how the sentiments are framed; one with heartfelt balladry and the other with a lighter-handed rock backing. That is an interesting re-emergence for the Chili Peppers, certainly.

After “Ethiopia,” the darkness the darkness begins to fade to a lighter shade of gray again with the funky but still regretful “Look Around” and “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” before getting downright jazzy with “Did I Let You Know.” Here, things are beginning to genuinely look up again but the payday comes with “Goodbye Hooray” and the absolutely vaudevillian pairing of “Happiness Loves Company” and “Even You Brutus?” Especially in those last two, the Red Hot Chili Peppers show a new, previously untested, theatrical side which is absolutely fascinating; while the band has always played with different rhythms to throw curve balls at its audience (see “Sir Psycho Sexy,” “If You Have To Ask” and “Apache Rose Peacock” for easy examples) but, here, the band has slipped in a more straight-faced songwriting style reminiscent of something from By The Way (check out the lyric sheet for “Even You Brutus?” if you want your mind blown) and thereby arriving at a fantastic hybrid of their old, fun style and their new millennial, more singer-songwriter-ly angle with captivating results; fans really have to hear it to believe it.

After “Even You Brutus” plays its way through, the remainder of the album's run-time is pretty sublime (“Meet Me At The Corner” feels like “Soul To Squeeze” or a lighter “Scar Tissue”), but “Dance, Dance, Dance” is the sort of entertaining fluff which makes a strong case for the theory that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are finally out of the woods they entered on Californication. This ending is spry and upbeat compared to the ones that "Road Trippin'," "Venice Queen" and "Hey" (a.k.a. The closing tracks from the last three RHCP records) represented, and that's a very exciting thing for long-time fans; it implies that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are ready to have fun with their audience again.



Red Hot Chili Peppers –
“The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” – I'm With You


I'm With You
comes out on August 29, 2011 via Warner Brothers Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.