Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers Unveil New Musical Maturity With ‘I’m With You’
To have a spiritual revelation, musical or otherwise, one does not have to do anything revolutionary. Many of the greatest epiphanies occur in the more subtle moments of life; one just has to open up their eyes wide enough to see. For the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Red Hot Chili Peppers[/lastfm], their newest album I’m With You acts as the sonic catalyst for an esoteric unveiling.
I’m With You etches deep into the soul grooves of Red Hot Chili Peppers, showcasing an ever-evolving musical maturity with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ quintessential thick, funky basslines, punctuated percussions, and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Anthony Kiedis[/lastfm]’ conceptual lyricism.
Fans looking for the forward-looking, punch-drunk jam band exuberance of past Red Hot Chili Peppers will be find that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ experimentation and musical irreverence comes in a darker, world-wizened package swollen with the new addition of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Josh Klinghoffer[/lastfm]’s grungy, sonorous guitar playing.
Starting with a blood-rushing “crimson tide” of rhythmic vitality and reverb-drenched guitars, “Monarchy of Roses” sets the tone for the rest of I’m With You–a luscious grindhouse anthem with hyperpolitical and spiritual overtones and tribal drumming that tugs distinctly at your root chakra.
“Factory of Faith” follows suit with [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Flea Balzary[/lastfm]’s punchy, resonant bass-plucking and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Chad Smith[/lastfm]’s dynamic, driving drumming.
Before Kiedis begins his precocious sing-rapping, he appropriately lets out what sounds like a little moan of pleasure. The song itself seems to be about the difference between carnal pleasures and having “faith” in a monogamous relationship.
Kiedis intersperses requests of matrimonial-based mating with statements of past lust: “all this time, I was searching for a dream/I was living in and out of every other sex machine.”
In complimentary contrast to the introspective maturity and the decaying physicality of the once sex-crazed young man in “Factory of Faith,” “Brendan’s Death Song” acts as a touching, melodious memorial to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ biggest fan, creative muse and biographer, Los Angeles music icon, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Brendan Mullen[/lastfm].
The song acts as a lesson to the listener on how to lead a life full of fulfillment sans regret and as a reminder that death isn’t a choice–it’s inevitable, so just roll with it: “Live or die/before I get it done will you decide?/Take my words and turn them into signs/they will survive/because a long time ago I knew not to deprive.”
“We’re rolling everybody. It starts with a bass,” starts the next song, “Ethiopia,” a song that has a playful, off-center rhythm, childlike vowel sounds reminiscent of “Old McDonald Had A Farm,” and a funky African-tinged mid-tempo head-bobbing beat that never lets up.
Ripe with spiritual innuendo and jaunty swagger, “Ethiopia” has Flea Balzary’s touch all over it.
Likewise, the next song highlights Klinghoffer’s sulky, sexy guitar chords in “Annie Wants a Baby.” The huge difference in Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound is Klinghoffer’s guitar playing.
While many old school diehards are fans of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]John Frusciante[/lastfm]’s massive, stadium-sized riffs, Klinghoffer brings an air of dark mystery to the new songs, equally as vivid of Frusciante’s guitar playing albeit sunken in richly opaque sonic shadow.
The next song, “Look Around,” has all the markings of a classic Red Hot Chili Peppers radio hit, in fact, more so than the song after it, the funk-heavy “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.”
“Look Around” has a goosebump-stimulating, catchy chorus, effusive hand claps, and easily-chanted lyrics like “put my peg into your square, run around like I just don’t care.”
The difference between a 1989 Red Hot Chili Peppers radio-friendly joint and “Look Around?” The Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t afraid to go into a quiet, introspective fifteen-second breakdown, prompting you to literally take a breath and “look around.”
With seductive Latin-esque drum-teasing and an evocative trumpet solo, “Did I Let You Know” has a very ’80s yacht rock sound interspersed with Paul Simon-ish lyrics like “I like you cheeky/so Mozambique-y” and the spirited yowl of a guitar.
“Did I Let You Know” is a very fun track despite, or maybe because of, the maturity of its influences.
Both “Goodbye Hooray” and “Happiness Loves Company” come hard, but in totally different ways. “Goodbye Hooray” has a heavy blues rock sound punctuated by the iconic Red Hot Chili Peppers penchant for a sweltering, beachy melody.
The piano-heavy “Happiness Loves Company” almost has a honky-tonk pool hall feel with a driving marching band beat from Chad Smith, what sounds like some deep-toned xylophone, and cheeky background vocals.
I’m With You‘s version of “Under The Bridge,” “Police Station” is Kiedis’ current take on his almost prerequisite painful, poignant ballad, full of melancholic confessions with glimmering tinges of hope in the chorus.
“Even You Brutus?” follows this dusky, somber trail Kiedis’ poetic voice and an almost [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Radiohead[/lastfm]-esque keyboard intro accented by a jagged funk-metal guitar.
Not every song can be killer. “Meet Me at the Corner” is a pretty song with a catchy melody, but–beyond the sultry guitar riffs and 1960s pop chords–it doesn’t posses the unique edge of most Red Hot Chili Peppers songs.
The last song on the album, “Dance, Dance, Dance” is perhaps the most modern and different of the songs, prophesying the path that Red Hot Chili Peppers is inevitably, slowly blazing in front of them. A subtle, graceful epiphany of a new sound.
With lush instrumentation, choral background singing, and the transcendental shuffle of the drums, “Dance, Dance, Dance” bridges multiple generations of sound, bringing the almost thirty year span of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career full circle.
[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Red Hot Chili Peppers[/lastfm]-I’m With You
1. Monarchy of Roses
2. Factory of Faith
3. Brendan’s Death Song
5. Annie Wants a Baby
6. Look Around
7. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
8. Did I Let You Know
9. Goodbye Hooray
10. Happiness Loves Company
11. Police Station
12. Even You Brutus?
13. Meet Me at the Corner
14. Dance, Dance, Dance