Chili pepper’s have a way of surprising people, I suppose.
It all just depends on a person’s tastebuds. Some may surrender to the simple jalapeno, others may see their chances with a habanero and still others may be just insane enough to eat three Carolina Reapers for their chance at (dubious) glory.
However, I doubt any of these red hot peppers have anything on Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Chad Smith, who seem to plow through the years like a Carolina Reaper would my soul.
Thankfully, where the Carolina Reaper would melt my tongue like hot asphalt, the Chili Peppers would rather roadtrip my ass to a musical junkie’s paradise, filled to the brim with electronic images of the psychedelic underbelly . And, enhanced by Danger Mouse’s production and a more invigorated Josh Klinghoffer, they arrive there on pat and in form albeit with some minor *cough* “Detroit” *cough* roadbumps on the car.
Klinghoffer comes to play
Perhaps that’s what’s so striking about this album in the first place. Danger Mouse and the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a pairing that definitely qualifies for the just-so-crazy-it-might-work award when it comes to making an album post-Frusciante.
Danger Mouse’s electronic background totally changes the dynamic of a Rick Rubinfluenced band. Hip-hop has taken the backseat while synthesizers and electronics on the fritz dominate the stereo of these Peppers. If the goal was to change up their style, they definitely started on the right foot.
And that’s where this album is strongest: Klinghoffer found a producer with whom he can see eye-to-eye. I’ve not listened to I’m With You, but my friend Kahleb, a Red Hot Chili Peppers superfan of the hottest degree believed it was Kiedis, Flea, Smith and Klinghoffer figuring out how to replace Frusciante, “probably with an ungodly amount of pressure on [Klinghoffer] to be like John.”
In that sense, The Getaway is Klinghoffer’s escape. Whether towards the past or the future, Klinghoffer sounds like his own guitarist on this record from the get-go.
You see, with the gun still smoking and the flashbang still ringing in our ears, Klinghoffer is off, energizing the title track with some much needed battery acid funk.
Not before long, Flea joins in with his own nine-volt of energy, ready to scream “it’s alive!” while the electricity boogies off his bass guitar.
Yeah, right about there, that’s the moment where I said: “Oh fuck, they finally figured it out.”
The funktronics carry this mother of reinvention. Hell, sometimes the electronics funk so hard under Danger Mouse’s production that they take charge of certain cuts, see: “Sick Love” and “Go Robot.” Yeah, those aren’t your normal peppers. They’re synthesizers drenched in hot sauce and psychedelia and soaked in funk.
Klinghoffer and Danger Mouse try their damnedest to make sure this album doesn’t suck eggs, and damn it they succeed through sheer force of will and artistic ability. It feels good to say that the band has begun to move away from their mid-00’s sound routine and towards something new with funky cues from the past.
Holes in the getaway plan
This album does come with its hiccoughs, however — particularly its seeming disjointedness at times. I’m paging “Detroit,” here:
I don’t know what could have saved that song, but man do I want to skip that half-baked cut in a heartbeat every time it comes on.
Actually, there’s a thought– I do know what would’ve helped this album: a little more time.
This album really started after Flea broke his arm. The production cycle was halved and while the majority of these songs are lifted and carried by the talent which was put into them, there are points where the album is left up shit creek without a paddle. Some times it feels like Smith gets replaced by a drum machine or is drowned out by the sheer lusciousness of the production. Even Flea capsizes from time to time in this electronic waves of Klinghoffer and Danger Mouse.
This is where the Peppers could’ve used pruning because it doesn’t follow that songs like “The Getaway” and “Go Robot” would lead into “This Ticonderoga” or, god forbid, “Detroit.” They’re like lead weights to what is otherwise a deep electronic funk experience. Hell, even “Dreams of a Samurai” could’ve used some love.
So when this album fails, it’s because Kiedis, Flea and Smith are playing not to lose rather than to win. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often as the older Peppers give Klinghoffer and Danger Mouse free reign to experiment with their sound.
If anything, they just need to grow comfortable playing with this motherboard of funk, otherwise when the Peppers can’t groove together, how the hell are we supposed to?
End of the test drive
However, when the Peppers do support Josh in driving the Red Hot Chili Pepper van, they begin to sound like a band ready to flaunt their new paint job. See, I’m not excited for this album per se — and don’t get me wrong it’s a good album — but for where they go after it.
The threads that this album creates tells me that for all their age, the Peppers are not closed off from new ideas, a refreshing thing to hear for all fans.
Overall I would give this album a solid B-. It has its moments of glory: “The Getaway”, “Dark Necessities” and “Go Robot”; its gems: “Sick Love”; but also its questions and its concerns (*cough*Detroit*cough*). The strongest thing about this album is it’s potential to become a fan favourite for a new generation of Peppers fans. This album can bridge the gap between these beloved yet grizzled funk-punks and the electropop of a modern era and I’ll be damned if that isn’t a good enough reason to enjoy the Pepper’s latest offering.
Producer(s): Danger Mouse
- The Getaway (Excellent opener)
- Dark Necessities (Baloo sticks the needle in)
- We Turn Red
- The Longest Wave
- Goodbye Angels
- Sick Love (Anthony Kiedis meets Elton John)
- Go Robot (Personal favourite)
- Feasting On The Flowers (Danger Mouse funks)
- Detroit (Dear god, my ears hurt)
- This Ticonderoga
- Encore (Dear god, my ears are better)
- The Hunter
- Dreams of a Samurai (Dear god, my ears are confused but OK with it)
Tracks 1-4, 8 & 12 written by RHCP & Danger Mouse.
Tracks 4, 5, 7, 9-11 & 13 written by RHCP.
Track 6 written by RHCP, Elton John & Bernie Taupin.