Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You Album Review
No one should have feared that a guitarist change would derail the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now nearing their 30th anniversary and on their tenth album, weathering a changing of the guard at the axeman position is old hat for these guys. Losing John Frusciante and bringing in Josh Klinghoffer is not an altercation without implications, but they occur mainly on the margins. Instead, the biggest sonic change on I’m With You is probably the simple realization that RHCP are beginning to slow down.
It’s not an inconceivable development. After all, three quarters of the band are nearing 50 years old and it’s been half a decade since we last heard them. Even the most frenetic and frenzied musicians must reach this point at some time.
I’m With You is not a disappointing record. Rather, it’s full of pretty good, catchy tunes, that are unfortunately more noticeable for their lack of creative energy than for their own inherent quality.
But let us start with the guitarist situation. Klinghoffer clearly fits this band, but at least on this record, he barely brings anything to the table that jumps out at you and demands your attention, the way a scorching Frusciante solo may have done. I’m not saying Klinghoffer can’t pull that off, or that the rest of the band minimized his contributions, but I am saying the guitar presence on this album is woefully understated. RHCP has always been about the funk, and that means body-thumping bass lines courtesy of the bass king himself, Flea. And that has not changed one bit (see “Ethiopia” and “Look Around”). But without a strong guitar backbone that can occasionally step to the forefront and leave some jaws agape, the songs can become lazy 1970′s funk imitations.
And “lazy” is not a word that I want to ascribe to RHCP, but it seems that this far into their prestigious career, they’ve made a habit out of aping themselves. That scat on “Look Around”? I’m quite sure Keidis has done the exact same thing before. The “Hey now” on “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”? Sounds far too similar to “Snow (Hey Oh).” I guess it’s better than ripping off someone else, but it’s uninspired nonetheless.
Drummer Chad Smith has stated that this album marks the start of a new band. And he’s probably right. It’s just that with the same name still in place, it’s hard to come to grips with the fact the RHCP is mellowing out. Surprisingly enough, however, the mellow works, and songs like “Police Station” and “Brendan’s Death Song” are some of the strongest the album has to offer. I’m With You is certainly no revelation; rather, it’s a pleasant but flawed transition into the next stage of the band’s career.