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Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘I’m With You’

Written by Tim Harvey on August 29, 2011

Even after Frusciante’s departure it only gets hotter for the Chili’s.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been half a decade since the Red Hot Chili Peppers dealt us a double disc of dominance with the sweet, anthemic Stadium Arcadium epic. It’s also hard to believe these guys are pushing 50, like Eminem in 2001. It’s even harder to believe, or accept, that guitar hero John Frusciante has left the Los Angeles band (we expect some more sublime solo sets Johnny boy). Even though the legend has left the band before (Dave Naverro of Jane’s Addiction joined them for ‘One Hot Minute’) it still seems strange, especially after the renaissance the band redeemed after their reunion (see the classic Californication and brilliant By The Way). Still, as one door closes a Josh Kinghoffer one opens, as the band return to tell their fans, I’m With You. Now it’s clear from the Damien Hirst, white, fly, pill-popping cover that this is going to be a clinical piece, open to interpretation. Now here’s ours…

The Peppers and long-time production partner Rick Rubin (time for some more ‘Mother’s Milk’ magic out in Malibu) lament life and death behind some peppered African influences. The Los Angeles band come back harder and grittier with Monarchy of Roses, which is a guns blazing track for rock’s royalty. It’s clear from the first drum roll, guitar riff and Keidis lyric that they’re back and welcome too. This sound and notion is continued with the vintage RHCP titled, Factory of Faith and the emotive Brendan’s Death Son, which harks back to the depths of Keidis singing about all his friends on One Hot Minute as the group pay tribute to the late autobiographer Brendan Mullen (rest peacefully).

The beautiful, emotive Ethiopia features vintage Keidis vocals for some more classic Chili’s. Then after the birth of this album comes Annie Wants a Baby, by this point it’s safe to say Kinghoffer is part of the Red Hot family. On the clap happy, foot-tapping Look Around the band explore their musical space and although they don’t sound as creative without Frusciante (this is a guy who was inspired by the Wu Tang Clan and Brandy of all people for the last album) they sure sound as solid as ever. The texture and sound is smooth for this collective as they feel it back in the groove.

The Beatles titled esque The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie was the single that started the buzz of this album, but let down some. Still, despite critics’ deflations this track is as high as helium, funky, lyrical, bass beautiful (thank you Flea) and driven by a trademark cool and classy chorus by Anthony, all while Kinghoffer formally introduces himself on guitar. Just like the album and the development and new direction of this band, this song grows on you.

Did I Let You Know is another great don’t you know? While Goodbye Hooray is an upbeat ‘au revoir’ as Keidis sings “See ya around, I’ll see ya around” with ‘joie de vivre’. The good times keep rolling on Happiness Loves Company as Chad Smith beats the joy out of his drums while Keidis shouts out “young lovers on the streets of L.A.” who “keep it pumping”. On this track it’s clear the band are home. Then when they hit the Police Station for some L.A. times story-telling (the race riots and police response to hip-hop culture are challenged here) they leave genre prison by rolling up their cuffs on a deep, dark track that arrests the senses and consciences of their Californian city.

Even You Brutus
? explores new territory for the band but does not betray their trademark, tried and tested and creatively diverse sound, while Meet Me at the Corner should have everyone coming around. Even those with their arms folded will begin to turn the music up and tune into a band that still sounds so good. The album comes to a close with the last waltz of Dance, Dance, Dance (unless you have the bonus of living in Japan) and the band conclude a cool, cohesive set with some class and charm and awe-inspiring atmosphere. What else from a band full of character?

Sure, without the one of a kind Frusciante it’s clear unfortunately that this band have lost some magic, but these old dogs are still well bred to learn some new tricks. The chemistry is still set like a science lesson as this band still take the rest of rock music to school. This album isn’t good, it’s great, going beyond expectations and critics’ judgement. I’m With You is a declaration that will leave those fans with doubts saying the same thing in return. Are you still down?

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