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Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album ‘I’m With You’ is a more mature but uneven effort

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There comes a time in a band’s career when they simply aren’t going to offer anything groundbreaking. At this stage of the game, you’d think it’s a safe bet that the Red Hot Chili Peppers wouldn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with their new music.
 
The rust was starting to show on 2006’s solid but quite lengthy Stadium Arcadium. Then guitarist John Frusciante left the group for the second time. The band then took an extended hiatus, during which Anthony Kiedis became a father for the first time, Flea studied music theory, and Chad Smith joined Chickenfoot. When they emerged in the Fall of 2010, touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer replaced Frusciante, and the group began work on ‘I’m With You,’ the band’s tenth studio album.
 
After listening to their latest work, it seems I was wrong: the Chili Peppers have appeared to tweak their sound while heading in a more mellow, adult-oriented direction on “I’m With You.”
 
And although the ensuing result offers some solid moments, it’s not always a good thing.Red Hot Chili Peppers photo: Universal Music.

Opening track ‘Monarchy of Roses’ is encouraging, combining a mixture of old school Chili peppers combined with an interesting fusion of rock and disco. This is interesting considering The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” in 1978 was probably the last time this occurred. ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ is a sentimental slow jam turning into a rocker dedicated to band friend and promoter Brendan Mullen, who died as production on the album began. ‘Did I Let You Know’ offers a strong trumpset solo by Michael Bulger and strong background vocals from newcomer Klinghoffer, whose guitar work also stands out on the catchy ‘Annie Wants a Baby’ (though the bass line is practically identical to ‘This is the Place’ from “By the Way.”)

Throughout the course of the album, the band offers more percussion as well as piano driven tracks such as ‘Police Station’ and the jumpy and upbeat ‘Happiness Loves Company.’  But the typical Peppers jams such as ‘Ethiopia,’ ‘Look Around,’ and ‘Goodbye Hooray’ sound like recycled cuts from previous RHCP albums.

So the Chili Peppers branch out without becoming defunkified. You’re probably wondering then what my issue is with the album? The problem is that none of these songs seem to resonate that well and the album really doesn’t have a centerpiece- those three or even four songs that you can take away from the first listen really wanting to hear again. While ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’ is the friendly FM debut single from the album, ‘Meet Me at the Corner’ Is an almost a slower version of “Hey” from ‘Arcadium’ with only more layers, and ‘Even You Brutus?’ is borderline brutal, never staying in one place long enough to get into a groove while Kiedis comes off as a poor man’s Eminem.

 

One thing that never suffers is the musicianship. Flea still rocks out and Smith still slams with the best of them. Moreover, the addition of Klinghoffer makes for a smoother transition than Dave Navarro’s on ‘One Hot Minute.’ In fact, casual listeners of the group might not even realize Frusciante is gone.

So yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have mellowed out and matured. The band’s new approach to their music makes ‘I’m With You’ a decent collection of songs, but nothing that will make you forget ‘Californication’ or ‘By the Way.’

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Universal Music