Certain rock bands have perpetual trouble keeping positions filled. Tempestuous hippies the Grateful Dead were the cardinal example – they’ve buried no fewer than four keyboard players. Spoof rock group Spinal Tap lampooned the problem, losing a succession of fictitious drummers to mishaps including spontaneous combustion and ‘a bizarre gardening accident’.
For the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the problem has always been guitarists. In the course of ten albums and 28 years, they have lost seven, either to drugs or musical differences, though all but one – founder Hillel Slovak, who died of an overdose in 1988 – went home alive.
On I’m With You, Josh Klinghoffer, pictured, becomes axeman No 8, replacing longtime incumbent John Frusciante, whose extraordinary guitar work across two separate Chili Peppers shifts turned a juvenile Los Angeles funk-rock band into strangely soulful mainstream rock giants.
Frusciante’s are big shoes to fill, and as hard as it tries, I’m With You struggles to fill the gap left by his distinctively rangy attack. First single The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie lacks something, while Ethiopia and Look Around hark back to younger, funkier days, and do so rather predictably.
But in practice, the very reason the Chili Peppers are the biggest funk-rock band in the world is because they don’t play a great deal of funk-rock any more.
More profitable by far is the seam of wounded, melodic pop that produced their signature song Under the Bridge.
Even without Frusciante, they are still able to locate it, and it is from there that they mine many of I’m With You’s more successful moments, most notably the mournful Police Station and Brendan’s Death Song, a heartsore elegy for a lost friend.
Many thanks to Alessandra for providing the transcript to this.