I'm With You Red Hot Chili Peppers (Warner)
Does rhyming "cheeky" with "Mozambiquey" count as being playful? Because I'd read that the first album in five years from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was written and recorded by a rejuvenated band in a mischievous mood. Does bringing in guest percussionists Mauro Refosco (of Brazilian descent) and Lenny Castro (Puerto Rican background) qualify as adventurous? Because I'd also heard that the onetime uplifting mofo party-planners were looking to get risky.
I'm not sure I have the answers to my questions. And I'm not sure the Peppers sound as refreshed – "this is a beginning," singer Anthony Kiedis told Rolling Stone magazine – as they claim to be. Sort-of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer replaces John Frusciante, and though he fits in nicely when given room he's not a game changer. There's not a lot of oomph or pizzazz here. Nothing jumps out at you, no matter how many times Flea pops his bass or Kiedis spits out his occasional (uninspired) raps. The hippie-funk energy of 2006's Stadium Arcadium is not repeated, which is fine – no one expected more of that. In it's place, though, there is little that is remarkable.
Which isn't to say there aren't tracks worthy of your 99 cents. Annie Wants a Baby starts with a gloomy Nirvana-ish kind of bass line – Come As You Are, specifically – and slips in some bluesy guitar strips. Klinghoffer adds numerous appealing textures as the hazy rocker moves forward and, yeah, that does sound an awful like the Beach Boys on the background vocals at the 2:44 mark. The album, as it turns out, was recorded at the Beach Boy guitarist Al Jardine's studio in Big Sur, Calif.
Any Chili Pepper ballad fans out there? My hand is raised. Police Station has easygoing verses, about seeing a drifting woman in different places – at a precinct, at a television station, in a churchyard. Producer Rick Rubin, working with his fellow Californians for the fifth time, possibly suggested the lovely backing vocals. You wouldn't be alone if the chorus reminded you of something off the Who's Tommy. The song closes with menacing guitar noises over a lovely piano bit from Greg Kurstin.
Brendan's Death Song is a thoughtful acoustic tribute to a friend who passed – "and when you hear this, you'll know it's your jam, it's your goodbye." The song's middle is a bigger, brooding breakout that comes out of nowhere. It works, but the song overstays its welcome.
Happiness Loves Company is bouncy pop, with some "bop-bop" business going on in the background. Did I Let You Know sounds like Debarge, not de Peppers. There's a trumpet fill and steel drums too – the rhythm of the night, apparently.
This isn't the group's best record, not by a long shot. But it's not for lack of trying. One suspects there are more albums to come, and that we haven't heard the last of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers perform I'm With You in its entirety followed by greatest hits at a concert in Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 30, to be broadcast later that day internationally, including 75 Cineplex Odeon screens in Canada.
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