The Chili Peppers Age with Relative Grace on I’m With You

Pete Koehler

 

Did you know that Flea, Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith will all be receiving AARP cards within the next two years? Maybe the Red Hot Chili Peppers are becoming wiser in their advanced age because, thankfully, this record is a much briefer affair than 2006’s sprawling double album Stadium Arcadium, which clocked in at two hours. Let’s be real – that album had more fat in need of being trimmed than the beef brisket at Frank.

Still, this latest album isn’t exactly concise with 14 tracks spanning 59 minutes. The band was quoted as saying they wanted to whittle the record down to 12 tracks, but were unable to agree on the tracks to keep off the record. Allow me to be the one to do the deciding for them: “Police Station” and “Meet Me At The Corner” are two mellow, throw-away songs stashed toward the back end of the record. Neither is offensive in any way, but they just drag on and are, in all honesty, boring, which a RHCP song should never be.

If there is a song where a mellow vibe works, it has to be “Brendan’s Death Song,” written as an ode to band biographer and friend Brendan Mullen. The song is built around the recurring lyric, “Like I said, you know I’m almost dead, you know I’m almost gone.” The song doesn’t just come off as a tribute to their deceased friend, but as recognition of their own mortal­ity in their older age. Musically, it is the stron­gest song on the album as well, building from a beautiful acoustic lead to a full-scale electric jam that sounds like a band unleashing every ounce of pent-up emotion they have in them.

The Chili Peppers are at their best when Flea is steering the ship with his driving, nimble bass lines. He is undoubtedly the star of the show on the record and the strongest tracks put his bass right up at the forefront. “Factory of Faith” and “Goodbye Hooray” are fast-paced, bass-heavy rockers that have been the band’s calling card over the years. “Mon­archy of Roses” is also built around a gal­loping bass line and actually sneaks in some synths that give the song some nice space to breathe. Lead single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” is also a bass-centered jam. Though “Maggie” has been panned by most critics, she’s actually a lot of fun. The lyrics may be nonsensical, but let’s be honest, if you came into this record looking for philosophi­cal musings, you’re probably in the wrong place. Between a sing-along chorus, instantly recognizable bass line and some fine slide gui­tar work, it makes sense why “Maggie” was chosen to be the lead single.

And in case you weren’t aware, John Frus­ciante isn’t on axe duty anymore. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know, because Josh Klinghoffer, a disciple of Frusciante’s, plays in a very similar vein throughout the record. Frusciante amicably left to further pursue his solo career and, though his talents are missed, Klinghoffer is more than competent. Putting Flea’s bass more in the forefront than the guitar is alright by me.

Competent would probably be the best word to describe the record on the whole. It is very listenable and few songs do any­thing to offend, but most go by without any lasting impression (the opposite of Anthony Kiedis’s new mustache, which both offends and stays with you). The top-heaviness of the record is also irritating because the top-rate material is all within the first nine tracks and the last 20 minutes of the record are the slowest and most boring.

On the whole, I’m With You shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as classics such as Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Califor­nication, but for a bunch of old dudes, they could do a heck of a lot worse. Anyone who wasn’t already on board with the Chilis up to this point is unlikely to be converted by I’m With You, but fans will be at the least satis­fied with it. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are talented enough that it should be celebrated that they’re still making quality music, even if their creative prime is in the rearview mirror.

Overall rating: 3/5

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