jason stives takes in the new Chili Peppers record …
In the five years since the release of their double album, Stadium Arcadium, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have gone through another lineup change, the second featuring the departure of guitarist John Frusciante in 15 years. While his first exit came at a time when the band was just establishing their importance, this recent one has come at a creative zenith that could have easily crippled and ended the band. However, with a new guitarist at the helm, the band has returned with I’m With You, their tenth studio album and a thunderous blend of funk, soul, and rock and roll that for a band now going into its third decade of existence is much needed, and its result is a pleasing one at best.
It’s obvious from the start that the band has been focused on their own demise either as a sign of fatigue or the initial primal fear the band suffered from after Frusciante’s exit. There are many themes evolving around salvation in the end of beautiful lives and friendships. “Brendan’s Death Song” is a dedication to late friend and L.A. club owner Brendan Muller, but also could be a mutual consensus for the band’s worries of demise.
The sudden change in the lineup comes at a creative peak for the band, which after a series of critically and commercially acclaimed albums, the departure of a member as important as Frusciante feels like the rock equivalent of a mid-life crisis. For the band’s benefit, new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer comes with much dedication to his craft and the help of being the band’s touring guitarist for almost a decade. The results are instantaneously noticeable on tracks like “Did I Let You Know” and “Look Around,” in which the former War Paint guitarist opts to tweak at the technique rather than blaze off on the fiery solos his predecessor was known for.
Elsewhere on the album, it’s obvious this album has been therapy and for the better. Coming off some of the more weighted material on Stadium Arcadium, I’m With You combines the funk-based tracks the band were known for with an almost SoCal garage band like quality. The opening number “Monarchy Of Roses,” sounds like a scatterbrained sound check while the subsequent number “Factory Of Faith” hypothesizes where the band will go with Flea’s ever-astounding bass lines.
If there is one thing maintained on I’m With You that the band has always been able to slip into their work regardless of tone, it’s the ever-present West Coast vibe their music elicits. Copulated by the lead single “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie,” Kiedis and company once again bring the sound of California to light in a time when the imagery coming from L.A. may seem cruddy and over-stimulated by reality media. For these reasons, I’m With You is mandated new chapter in the Chili Peppers’ already stoic career. Anthony Kiedis and the rest of the group may have been feeling a bit doom and gloom going into this album’s production, but if anything, the band has insured another decade of funk rock Americana, and it’s almost as if nothing has changed.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)