Guitarist John Frusciante has bailed on the Chilis for a second time, so with fresh axe man Josh Klinghoffer in the line-up, they are “a new band”. Listening to I’m With You, the 10th album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, that does seem to be the case…and that’s both good and bad.
Good, in that the loss of Frusciante has forced the group to re-jig its sound and in doing so they have ventured out of their comfort zone. Bad, in that, while Klinghoffer’s playing is pretty darn good, the band seems to have lost its direction. They try out some new ideas, but the end result on many of the tracks is something less than expected.
Opening cut Monarchy Of Roses is a perfect example. The song begins with the sound of the band noisily gearing up. Anthony Kiedis’ vocal is treated with distortion; they almost sound like a garage band. Then suddenly the sound opens up to an uncluttered, dry production. Flea locks in to a galloping disco bass line and the bands seems to be heading into another funkified classic. But then the track reverts to the treated vocal
and back again. It’s as if they can’t make up their mind where they want to go.
I blame Rick Rubin.
This is the fifth album Rubin has produced for the Chilis. And while he has done wonders with them in the past, at this stage in their career they need a producer who can give them some creative direction, rather than just set them up to play and let them go, which is what Rubin is known for.
So, the result is an album in which a veteran band, with a new guitarist, fumbles around for 50 minutes trying to figure out what to do with the songs they’ve brought to the studio. Drummer Chad Smith overplays on several of the tracks (Did I Let You Know and Goodbye Hooray to be specific). I’m sure the trumpet in Did I Let You Down seemed like a good idea at the time, but someone needed to come in and just say no. Kiedis’ “rapping” on Factory Of Faith and Look Around sounds dated and slightly embarrassing.
There are some highlights. Brendan’s Death Song, written about their late friend and LA scenester Brendan Mullen, is genuinely moving. First single The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie is pretty good, despite the cow bell. And Police Station is a moody ballad that, given half a chance could have turned out to be one of the band’s best.
The best that can be said for most of I’m With You is that parts of it are interesting but overall, it’s not particularly compelling.
Click here to listen to Did I Let You Know from I’m With You: