September 5, 2011

"I'm With You" Once Again, Red Hot Chili Peppers!

Red Hot Chili Peppers:  Version 2011

If you've liked the musical trajectory of the Red Hot Chili Peppers during the past decade, you will absolutely dig their new album I'm With You.  The fact that they've managed to continue unscathed musically - despite the departure of John Frusciante - speaks volumes about the musicianship of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.  As Flea has stated in numerous recent interviews, Klinghoffer may not be a virtuoso/savant, but his unique thumbprint on this album is undeniable.  

The difference between Frusciante and Klinghoffer is that while the former tended play deceptively technical and often linear guitar riffs, the latter is almost entirely textural.  If that sounds a bit music-geeky, perhaps it is.  However, one listen of I'm With You, and you'll at least instinctively understand the difference.

The last time Frusciante left the Chili Peppers, the band went with a replacement - Dave Navarro - who was even more of a riff-meister, and the resulting One Hot Minute was somewhat less than fitting for the band.  Seemingly, having learned from their previous misstep, this time the band has gone in the other more textural direction and the result is seamless - yet different.

With a different approach on guitar, it's blatantly obvious within seconds of the album's opening track "Monarchy of Roses" that the musical heart - and to a large extent, the star - of this band is Flea.  The fact that Chad Smith, of Chickenfoot fame (I had to say that!), is so innately in snyc with Flea makes them the best rhythm section in rock today - bar none.  Add to all this Anthony Kiedis, whose best investment ever was to take vocal lessons because, since Blood Sugar Sex Magik, he has gone from being perpetually half-step out of key (go back and listen to "Under The Bridge") to becoming an extremely soulful, unique, and listenable singer.   

                 ("The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" ©2011 - WMG)

I'm With You builds on the best elements of Californication, By The Way, and Stadium Arcadium - albeit without Arcadium's Physical Graffiti-esque heft - and throws in a heavy dose of slinky, disco funk.  In many of the songs, they also bridge the gap between pre- and post-Blood Sugar Sex Magik by switching off between pseudo-rapped verses and pop/arena rock choruses.  The result is a whole lot of infectious songs.

The early favorite for best song is "Did I Let You Know," a track that incorporates a syncopated bass and drums, be-boppy horns courtesy of Flea, steel drums, an over-the-top overdriven guitar solo, and the rhyme "cheeky" with..."Mozambique-y" as only Anthony Kiedis can deliver.  The track manages to cover Caribbean flavors, funk, disco, rock, and pop with a wacky audacity and self-assurance probably not heard since Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain."

I'm With You only further proves the point of their last three albums - that this is a band at their absolute prime.