Piano, trumpet, cowbell, and a distinct lack of face-melting dual guitar solos? This can’t be the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, can it? You bet your sock-covered cock it is! The crowned kings of funk-rap-rock-and-roll are back with their 10th studio album, I’m With You. Clocking in at just under 60 minutes, the 14 tracks are unlike anything you have heard from the L.A. foursome, yet distinctly Chili Peppers.
Technically, I suppose this isn’t the Chili Peppers you know, since it’s the first release with Josh Klinghoffer replacing guitar-god John Frusciante. Admittedly, I was worried when I found out Frusciante left the band (for the second time). I’ve been a loyal Pepper and Frusciante fan since the first time I heard Taste the Pain from Mother’s Milk (his debut album with the band) back in late 1989 . After his first departure, the band nearly imploded with the addition of Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for 1995’s One Hot Minute. While certainly not a bad album, things just didn’t sound right until John rejoined for 1999’s Californication.
Many wondered if the Peppers could maintain their unique sound minus the driving force behind their 5 top-selling albums. One listen to I’m With You and all that wondering is replaced with a desire to get naked and rock out. While most of the band’s previous work was driven by John’s guitar and arrangement, this one is undeniably led by Flea’s amazing bass skills. The loss of Frusciante also didn’t affect the band’s ability to harmonize, and Klinghoffer holds his own on tracks like Did I Let You Know, Meet Me At The Corner, and Police Station.
Stadium Arcadium was every Pepper fan’s wet dream, with 28 tracks and 9 other B-sides, but it was all over the place, lacking any real direction. That certainly isn’t the case on the new album – every track feels necessary, with none of the material coming across as filler. The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie was the lead single, but there are several that have the potential to be great follow-up hits. Goodbye Hooray (my personal favorite track) has a very in-your-face funk, vaguely similar to Can’t Stop. Another potential single with a party flavor vibe is Look Around, which has a catchy chorus that I can hear the masses singing along to. And Brendan’s Death Song, a tribute to the band’s late friend Brendan Mullen, is easily the album’s most powerful track. “I know I’m almost dead/I’m almost gone and when the drummer drums/it’s gonna play my song/to carry me along.”
The only complaint I can make, and it’s a very picky one, is the last track. A typical RHCP album-closer is a punctuation point like Organic Anti-Beat Box Band, Transcending, or Venice Queen. While Dance, Dance, Dance is certainly not a bad song, it’s just not an epic closer. Personally, I would have finished with Police Station – the amazing transition to a piano outtro leaves you feeling completely cleansed of any wrongdoing you might have ever done.
It’s too early to decide where this album ranks among the other nine, but after several listens I’m inclined to place it towards the top near BloodSugarSexMagik and Stadium Arcadium. So stop hesitating – get off your ass, get to iTunes or your local record store, and get I’m With You.
Uh-oh, I think I just dropped my sock!