Review Summary: Despite coming dangerously close to being generic, The new Chili Peppers lineup takes a step sideways and delivers a catchy album full of highlights.
This band has been in the industry for nearly 30 years. More amazingly, they have managed to stay commercially relevant for the past 20 of these years. Not many bands can say that (nice try, Metallica). After losing the primary inspirational and creative force that propelled them to these heights, they are still expected to make a splash with their 10th effort, *I'm With You*. That, in itself, is a monumental achievement.
After the departure of guitar whiz John Frusciante, the Peppers had huge shoes to fill. They recruited Josh Klinghoffer: a good friend to both John and the rest of the band. Nervous fans didn't know what to expect, and naysayers weren't exactly swayed with the release of single "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie." The song is pretty much a showcase for the other three members; there's a nice, rollicking bassline from Flea and some catchy-as-f*ck rapping from Anthony. Also, we are treated to an energetic resurgence for Chad Smith. But the track certainly doesn't belong to Klinghoffer.
Before I dive into my opinion of Klinghoffer, I'll get in a quick word about the other three. Tremendous musicians in their own right, I believe that these three are downright incapable of making a bad album, though they often delve into mediocrity if the guitar parts are lacking. Each has a time to shine. Anthony's lyrics are as quirky as ever, as his rapped and clean vocals show neither regress nor improvement. His clean vocals can, however, become a little grating on songs like otherwise pleasant "Brendan's Death Song". Flea, always excellent, delivers some nice bass work on songs like "Look Around" and "Ethiopia". The solo on "Goodbye Hooray" is unexpected but tremendous. Something like a fuzzy, funky Cliff Burton. Chad, ever consistent, kicks up the energy on songs like "Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" and "Dance Dance Dance". Okay, now that those three have received their due props, let's move on to the album's X factor.
Klinghoffer turns in a very inconsistent performance with great highs and disappointing lows. He is, at times, nearly absent. He adds a couple great licks on nearly every song, but his parts almost always take a backseat to the others. Even worse, when he's given a shot at a solo, Klinghoffer often chooses to add repetitive layering and effects. This pattern is most prevalent on Maggie, and also on otherwise energetic cuts "Factory of Faith" and "Ethiopia".
This is not to say that Klinghoffer is without impressive chops. In fact, the songs with greater influence from their new member turn out to be highlights on the album. "Meet Me At The Corner" has Josh turn out some incredible, bluesy guitar licks, as well as take the lead on vocals at one point (his vocals are excellent). But the true gem of the album is "Did I Let You Know." Chad kicks the song into high gear with an energetic, pounding rhythm. Josh then contributes a great, high-pitched riff. This groove leads into the chorus, which features an absurdly catchy call-and-response chorus from Anthony and Josh. With a solid trumpet solo to boot, this energetic slice of pop-rock is certainly the best song on the album, while perhaps giving insight into a new direction for the band.
Though "I'm With You" certainly won't come near the success of "BSSM" or "Californication," fans should be encouraged by the band's willingness to branch out and freshen their sound. With a new guitarist/singer/songwriter and well-exectuted turn at piano, there is certainly reason to believe that this new lineup has a bright future in front of them.
Brendan's Death Song
Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie (if you haven't already)
Did I Let You Know
Meet Me At The Corner
Thanks for the constructive criticism, I'll be sure to stay a little more focused... the rambling was a result of a strong urge to heap praise on their past accomplishments. Also, a fair portion of my review (including the conclusion) was cut off the end of it; I just wanted to find out if this is a mistake or an editing thing. Thanks again
I confess to be somewhat of a Chili Peppers fanboy, as they have been my favorite band since Californication (released when I was 7). Their lineup from 1989-2009 (minus that Navarro time), I believe, might be one of the most deeply talented four-piece bands of all time (Zeppelin being my number 1). It makes sense, then, that my first review is of their latest effort.
Touche. In retrospect, this review got off-topic pretty easily. But still... some of my best paragraphs were cut off the end of it. In fact,
"This is not to say that Klinghoffer is without impressive chops. In fact, the songs with greater influence from their new member turn out to be highlights on the album."
This sentence was actually the intro to another paragraph where I talked about the album's highlights. After that, I came up with a conclusion. If I had known the review would be shortened, I would've cut out some of the less-relevant intro stuff (most specifically my fanboyship paragraph). But in the end, it wasn't very well-written, and I'm the only one to blame for that