Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Album Review - Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of those bands that have done it all. Well, I say one of those bands - it's hard to find many other bands that have released ten studio albums. They've covered very different genres (from the grimy funk that was Uplift Mofo Party Plan to the more relaxed, almost 'alternative pop' feel of much of their double disc Stadium Arcadium), lost and gained band members, had a period of hiatus, and are established musical legends, undeniably. There was a lot of anticipation, therefore, with regards to their last album, I'm With You - would it be following along the same direction that Stadium Arcadium and By the Way seemed to have been pointing them in? Would it be a complete flop of middle-aged mid-life-crisis-esque lyrics about commitment troubles and the loss of Frusciante? The pressure to provide was high. Thankfully, this album is a lot more focused than its predecessor and is also easier listening than their earlier works.
Their (second) loss of Frusciante has clearly had an effect on the band's music in this album. The guitar playing, though tastefully so, is played down and no longer a key structural aspect of the songs. Klinghoffer's replacement of him has of course led to some apprehension (though the songs are clearly of the Chili Peppers, there is an obvious audible difference) from fans, which is allegedly confronted in the lyrics of The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie, the first single from the album, for example in the line "no one here is on trial, it's just a turnaround". Flea's bass playing is, however, ever-prominent, and the tribal drumming, vocals and lyrics are all up to Chili Pepper standards.
I'm With You is a very conscious return to the musical industry (opening with a warm-up like drum roll and twiddle of guitar, and distant vocals), yet also ties up many loose ends - enough for me to say I would not be surprised if this was intended to potentially be their finale. For example, the closing of the opening track Monarchy of Roses sounds exactly like that of Make You Feel Better, from Stadium Arcadium, the first single has been described as "a collection of memories" (to MTV) by Kiedis (as the song tells us they will "rock you like the 80s" - the decade in which they first formed) and the tour is set to be their largest to date, with every show being available to download. The album includes the lyrics "We've got the wrong girl But not for long, girl, It's in the song girl, 'Cause I'll be gone girl", "Good things come to those who wait, Like an expiration date... Every dog will have its day." although also others that seem more optimistic about the future such as "The light is right, lift here tonight, lets make the right, the song of prize lets play", he does claim he'll lead all our mind games astray, so the album seems to be a call almost to a final celebration - epitomised in the title of the song Goodbye Hooray.
The only drawbacks of this album are that the chorus of Brendan's Death song is boring as (sort it out, Kiedis), and the shouted verses of Even You Brutus? take the listener by surprise. Other than that, there's really not much that can be criticized about this album - it is a work of mature musicians and each song is a tune. The album's also well assembled, with the songs flowing into one another and it ending on the high that is Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance. There's also been musical progress within the band - there's a lot more piano playing than we're used to, and there are some really crunchy harmonies going on (particularly during Happiness Loves Company) as well as more structural variation within the songs, and more variety, than was demonstrated in their last album, despite it being half the size. On the whole, then, an utter success. I only hope it isn't their last album, as there is definitely space in the world for more albums like this. It's nice that such an established, mature band are still evolving.

Music Like This:

  • Any of their earlier stuff, in particular Stadium Arcadium and One Hot Minute.
  • The Drums - their sound is quite similar to that of this album, although they are less mature and more awkward adolescent-y.
  • Skunk Anansie - from the same era, imagine the Chili's with a black, bald frontwoman with more anger and less indie.

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