Red Hot Chili Peppers
I'm with You
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2011, Volume 18, #9
Written by John Metzger
Mon December 12, 2011, 05:30 AM CST
Guitarist John Frusciante has played a crucial role in the success of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Working in conjunction with the nimble rhythms supplied by bass player Flea and drummer Chad Smith, he powered the groupís funk-fueled breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Nevertheless, when the outfitís popularity mushroomed to enormous proportions, Frusciante felt that the only way to avoid becoming enslaved by the process was simply to walk away from the band in the middle of a tour. The Red Hot Chili Peppers responded with one of the weakest efforts of its career: One Hot Minute might have been pleasantly constructed, but aside from a handful of tracks, it also was instantly forgettable.
Fruscianteís return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers a few years later sparked a lengthy creative resurgence that began with Californication and continued through the release of the double-disc gem Stadium Arcadium. Considering how difficult Fruscianteís previous departure from the group had been, his decision to step away from his role with the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a second time undoubtedly filled his collaborators with trepidation. Understandably, then, Flea, Smith, and vocalist Anthony Kiedis proceeded cautiously, keeping the split to themselves as they preliminarily began laying the groundwork for Iím with You with touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer in tow.
Fruscianteís departure could have been devastating to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but instead of appearing to be uncertain about its future, the band sounds fully rejuvenated. In fact, although Iím with You is a meditation of sorts on mortality and middle age, it is ó based solely upon the music ó the happiest album that the Red Hot Chili Peppers has ever made. Klinghoffer doesnít necessarily place his own stamp upon the groupís output. Instead of presenting new ideas, he offers ones that are complementary to what the outfit has previously done. Joining in lockstep with Flea and Smith ó as well as Kiedisí annunciations, which function better as rhythmic cadences than they do as poetry ó he helped the ensemble to sculpt some of the most irresistibly accessible grooves of its career.
Working, once again, with producer Rick Rubin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers seems to have shifted the tonality of its approach just enough to reveal the many textures that long have drifted beneath the surface of its songs. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie leans, at times, toward George Harrisonís solo work, while Happiness Loves Company feeds The Turtles through í90s sensation Fastball. On Police Station, the Red Hot Chili Peppers connects Animals-era Pink Floyd with the modern motifs of Radiohead, and Even You Brutus? begs comparisons to Eminemís recent output.
Perhaps the vindicating factor that has kept One Hot Minute on everyoneís radar is that the outing provided the Red Hot Chili Peppers with an opportunity to tinker with its core sound. This set the stage perfectly for the fine-tuned melodies that surfaced with greater force on Californication. While crafting Iím with You, the Red Hot Chili Peppers delved deeper into its funk-fueled roots, and the end result is that the album is more closely aligned with the Rolling Stonesí Some Girls and Emotional Rescue than it is with the raging pulse of Led Zeppelin or the power-driven soul of Jimi Hendrix.
In a rather gutsy move, the Red Hot Chili Peppers infused The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie and Goodbye Hooray with elements drawn from the likes of Madonna and Ricky Martin, respectively. Surprisingly, its gambit worked: While some of the power-pop moments on Iím With You slip past amiably, the dance-friendly grooves are downright seductive. For all intents and purposes, Iím with You opens a strange, new world for fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to embraceó especially those who have grown accustomed to the groupís aggressive, testosterone-driven assaults. When it began working on the project, the collective might have been trying to dodge comparisons to the Frusciante-era, but Iím With You makes a strong case that, this time, it might get along just fine without him.
Of Further Interest...
I'm with You is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box