The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tenth major effort is called “I’m With You”, and was released three months ago. “I’m With You” is the first album since “Stadium Arcadium”, which was released five years ago, and was met with decent acclaim and excellent sales. It marks the longest break between two albums by the band, who have been active for twenty-eight years. Only Anthony Kiedis, lead singer, and Flea, bass guitarist, have been active for that long.
The album marks a major landmark in their career; influential guitarist John Frusciante left the band two years ago. He was with the band for a total of thirteen years, from 1989 to 1992, and then from 1999 to 2009. It’s safe to say replacing him was difficult, but the Chili’s chose Josh Klinghoffer, someone the band were very familiar with, as he had worked with Frusciante many times beforehand. Klinghoffer has been a tour and session guitarist for many bands, including PJ Harvey, Butthole Surfers and Beck.
The album starts off with “Monarchy of Roses”; the beginning is pretty cool with some distorted guitars and a nice drumbeat, but then it turns into every other Red Hot Chili Peppers song. That sounds critical, and in a certain way it is, but it isn’t a bad song, it’s just nothing different you would expect from the Chili’s. The disappointment really is that this is the second single off the album, and you would expect better when you compare it to other songs the band has released. After the balanced opener, we get “Factory of Faith”, which features a lot of the funk you’d expect from the band, without it ever getting past second gear. It’s one of the better tracks on the album as it sounds quite cool, but as I said, it just doesn’t step up at all, and remains a relatively upbeat song.
And that’s the problem with this album on the whole; it never goes to third gear or beyond. What’s on this album is fine, it truly is; it’s what you would expect from a Chili’s album, apart from that it lacks that spice that their singles usually pack. There’s no fantastic and funky song on here, like a “Give it Away” or a “Can’t Stop”, nor is their a truly beautiful and heart-pulling track like “Breaking the Girl” or “Otherside”.
The best song on the album is probably track three, “Brendan’s Death Song”, it’s a beautifully written, beautifully sung and beautifully composed song. The song builds up slowly as it goes on, once again it never takes off, but in this instance you don’t want it to. It’s very similar to a lot of the other slower songs on other albums, in the respect that it remains a rock song, but also has certain elements of ballad in there. It’s just a great track.
The seventh track, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, is the main single off the album but if you didn’t know that you wouldn’t have thought so. The song has no redeeming features that other main singles off other albums has. Compare it to “Dani California”, “By the Way”, or “Scar Tissue”. It’s not even in the same league.
The album is jam-packed full of dare I say it, generic Chili’s material. I can barely comment on most of the songs without stretching myself, something I don’t really want to do, as it sounds desperate. But I find myself doing so; track eight is “Did I Let You Know”, and it sounds quite good, but it’s further emphasis to the “slightly upbeat” Chili’s song. Oh, and there’s a nice guitar solo in “Goodbye Hooray”. See? I’m stretching myself.
Track ten, “Happiness Loves Company”, is one of the songs that stand out a little more than the others, it has some nice work on the drums and Kiedis’ vocals are particularly good here. “Even You, Brutus?”, which is track twelve, features some almost preaching vocals by Kiedis and it has a slightly on the cuff feeling to it and the chorus is quite fun, especially in comparison to what else is available on here. The album’s ending, “Dance, Dance, Dance” ends in a way that’s fitting for this album, a slightly upbeat (yes I used the term again) track that suggests you dance all night long. And if you want to dance half heartedly, then the song is definitely apt for it.
I don’t want to come across as bitter and disappointed but I’ve got to be honest, I am. This album was very disappointing for me. I’ve reviewed many younger artists than the Chili’s and I’ve reviewed artists that have been going on for longer than the Chili’s. And I can honestly say that this album feels the most lacking in effort that I’ve reviewed. Now, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great band, and the quality is here. But it’s like a firework past its explosion. I find the album lacks the energy, the drive and imagination that their previous work has. I don’t want to call the Chili’s past it. I don’t even want to say it’s the departure of iconic guitarist John Frusciante that leads to this disappointment. It just feels the band haven’t tried very hard, and in turn, it leads to me not trying very hard to review it. “I’m With You” is just that – the Chili’s being with us, on CD, but definitely not in spirit.
Rating: *** stars
Stand out tracks: “Brendan's Death Song”, “Even You, Brutus?” “Factory of Faith”
Here's the video for the second single "Monarchy of Roses"...