2016/06 (17th) NME

Medium spicy

The Californian rockers take few chances on their frustratingly cautious 11th album


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AS RED HOT CHILI Peppers prepared to release their 10th album five years ago, they seemed like a band reborn. With recharged batteries from a two-year break and touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer officially replacing John Frusciante, the future looked peachy. Ultimately, ‘I’m With You’ disappointed, with Klinghoffer only having had a year to get up to speed, and fans hoped for a better follow-up. And while there is progress on ‘The Getaway’, the band don’t quite manage it.

Of course, Flea’s bass solos still sound like the theme tune from Seinfeld, and Anthony Kiedis often spouts nonsense (see the ‘Detroit’ lyric, “Am I on the right side or left side of your brain?”). But there is, at least, an attempt to move forward. Take single ‘Dark Necessities’. Its swelling, driven intro has a doomy quality completely at odds with the Chilis’ happy-go-lucky vibe. Add in the euphoric, piano-laden middle eight and we’re really cooking. Elsewhere, the hazy synths of ‘Go Robot’ banish any memory of sunny LA, while the proggy ‘Dreams Of A Samurai’ takes their sound in a new and exciting direction. The problems come when they slip into habit.

‘We Turn Red’ is all polished vocals and corny riffs, while ‘The Longest Wave’ is so sedate it might have been recorded lying down. On ‘Goodbye Angels’ Kiedis appears positively sage, singing, “Say goodbye my love, I can see it in your soul”. But on ‘This Ticonderoga’ he becomes childish: “I call my best friend ‘Flea’”.

There’s a reluctance to take too many risks, understandable after three decades of success. But it shouldn’t be enough to churn out so-so albums. The funk-rock pioneers revolutionised the West Coast club scene in the mid-’80s and you’d hope the fires still burn. It’s not as if they lack the talent to innovate. Hard-hitting drummer Chad Smith is as good as anyone and in Flea they have a virtuoso musician. But maybe they don’t realise how safe it sounds. Last month, Kiedis called the new songs “as good as any we’ve ever written”. While that’s not strictly true, these are well-penned tunes. They just don’t do anything special with them. Alex Flood

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