Red Hot Chili Peppers

I'm With You

Written by: PP on 15/11/2011 02:48:34

Five years have passed since Red Hot Chili Peppers released "Stadium Arcadium", a two-disc journey through every possible style and influence the band could possibly offer. Looking back at it today, it was a difficult album to like and even more so to remember, simply because the sheer number of songs was overwhelming (28!) and the quality inconsistent. And aside from "Dani California", the timeless megahits that define every modern Red Hot Chili Peppers album were missing; the absence of material in the vein of "Otherside", "Scar Tissue", "Under The Bridge", "Californication", or even "By The Way" was a turn off for many fans. Today, nine years have passed since the last good RHCP album ("By The Way") and even longer since a great one ("Californication"), which is why the anticipation to their tenth studio album "I'm With You" has been underwhelming. Rather, the question has been "does anybody care?", fueled by the fact that iconic guitarist John Frusciante has not been a part of this release.

But against all odds, "I'm With You" might be the finest RHCP release since "Californication" (depending on your opinion of "By The Way"). The never-ending jam passages and irritating showcases of craftsmanship that led to several miserable live performances are noticeably absent from the album. This can be attributed to the departure of Frusciante, who stated that "his musical interests had led him in a different direction and that he needed to fully focus his efforts on his solo career" as the reason of his departure. Though the initial thought of a RHCP album without Frusciante is scary, replacement guitarist Josh Klinghoffer does his best to fill in a mammoth sized hole and actually presents impressive flair on a couple of occasions. "Look Around", one of the highlights of the album, displays vivid and busy guitar work that's on par with Frusciante's best material with the band, and the sexy licks in the larger-than-life, piano-driven ballad "Even You Brutus?" are exactly what a fan would want from a RHCP guitarists. In addition, the song owns easily the largest and most ambitious soundscape of their career, and contrary to what usually happens when bands inflate their sound far beyond their regular material, it works brilliantly in this instance.

But perhaps more importantly, the rest of the band compensates by pulling off thrilling performances each of their own. Anthony Kiedis delivers his best vocal performance since "Californication", returning to his trademark melancholic croons and stretched out vocal lines during the choruses, and classic funk rock vocals in the verses. "Monarchy Of Roses", "Brendan's Death Song", "Ethiopia" and "Look Around" are all impossibly catchy, where the first and the last are easily on par with "Californication"-era material.

At the same time, Flea's bass lines are perhaps at their funkiest since the band's early days (think "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" and older). His bass lines dominate in many songs to such an extent that it feels like the bass guitar is on the driver's seat with rest of the instruments as passengers, and the guitar hidden in the trunk. So by default, many songs portray a return to their funk rock sound, though withholding the most important elements of their signature alternative rock sound in the process.

Still, those expecting the band to deliver another "Californication" are likely to be disappointed. For starters, "I'm With You" sounds considerably different from the straight-forward alternative rock of that album. The song structures are more complicated and there's a lesser pop vibe on the album overall. While the album does move the Chilis towards their older sound, it still maintains some of that experimental attitude they displayed on "Stadium Arcadium" five years ago. It has merely been streamlined into a more radio friendly and catchy format, but it's still a grower that requires multiple active listens to appreciate. Moreover, at fourteen songs, the album is about four tracks too long. Not because the album is one hour long, but because the band cannot keep consistency with tracks like "Goodbye Hooray", "Meet Me At The Corner", "Police Station" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" dragging down the average by a notch. By removing these tracks, "I'm With You" would have been jam-packed with classic Chili moments. But all things considered, "I'm With You" is much better than all of us expected it to be.

Download: Monarchy Of Roses, Look Around, Even You Brutus?
For the fans of: no other band sounds like RHCP!
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Release date 26.08.2011
Warner Bros

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