August 31, 2011

Test Spins: Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’m With You

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After five years and the departure of guitarist John Frusciante, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a lot to prove. Frusciante’s skillful guitar work graced the Chili Peppers’ best albums and essentially defined their sound. Thankfully, I’m With You is a solid new beginning for the band. Although the cliché title suggestes a move towards pop, their original funk sound is still intact. True, the guitar has taken a backseat — new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer never pretends to act like Frusciante — but the emphasis on the melodic gives the album a sound reminiscent of By The Way.

Infectious melodies are evident on stand out tracks “Did I Let You Know” and “Ethiopia.” The former boasts a calypso-like instrumental with minimal guitar and  smooth vocals from Anthony Kiedis, and the latter is an effective take on African funk. While none of the funk comes close to the levels witnessed on “Suck My Kiss” and “Give It Away,” “Monarchy of Roses” and “Goodbye Hooray” will satisfy any fan of the Chili Pepper’s harder material. Both songs start off with funky verses amplified by guitar, but once the chorus kicks in the guitar gives way to crisp, sing-a-long melodies.

Still, these tracks are the exception rather than the rule. The album’s first single, “The Adventures Rain Dance Maggie,” is more indicative of the melodic funk heard on most of the album. While some may see the downplaying of guitar as the band adopting a pop sheen, I’m With You is no doubt classic Chili Peppers. Their quirkiness is still present on tracks like “Even You Brutus?” and “Factory of Faith,” the former featuring Kiedis reading poetry and cawing like a bird. Nowhere do they adopt dance music tendencies or sing songs about drinking and clubbing, which they haven’t and hopefully never will.

While not as high quality as Stadium Arcadium, their new effort is less over-blown and thus a more cohesive and instant record. By The Way still takes the cake for me as their best album, but it is refreshing to see them returning to a similar type of sound. The next gap in between albums better not be five years, because I’m With You will leave your mouth watering for more Peppers.

Original Author: Matt Samet