2011 October NME
Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’m With You – Warner Bros
The bass-abusing funk rock stalwarts colonise the middle of the road with this slick but safe outing
Formed a mind-bloggling 28 years ago, Red Hot Chili Peppers apparently started life as a joke, a priapic party band put together to soundtrack happening LA shindigs back before Arnold Schwarzenegger had even starred in Terminator. They are the joke that keeps giving. Their previous double player ‘Stadium Arcadium’ suffered from quality control issues, and while mercifully only bringing out the one disc this time, ‘I’m With You’ still feels like a journey, albeit via Megabus. Having survived various personnel changes and a drugs death, their now settled line-up still includes a revolving door of guitarists. Accomplished new axe-man Josh Klinghoffer, who is allowed to fire out some serious glam-rock hooks during lead single ‘The Adventures Of Rain Maggie’, fits in a little too well; subtle and mostly restrained throughout, he screams ‘session musician’, though he’s the perfect foil for bassist Flea, who can now reveal the true extent of his megalomania. Adrenalised by guava smoothies and good Californian living, where he once drove the sound, he now rules like a crazed North African despot, and before long the album begins to resemble one long interlude from Seinfeld.
Anthony Kiedis is nothing if not consistent, his voice as assured and unmistakable as ever, and his lyrical vagaries unfathomable as one has come to expect. On ‘Annie Wants A Baby’, a lesbian couple cover some of Anthony’s A-grade alpha seed, while on ‘Monarchy Of Roses’ he starts warbling bafflingly about “the holy tears of Ireland” and “the calicos of Pettibon”. The dichotomy of profundity/vacuity here is breathtakingly Bono-like.
There’s nothing as good as ‘Taste The Pain’ or ‘Give It Away’ here, though nothing as loathsome as ‘Love Rollercoaster’ either. Mutterings of unbridled experimentation were sadly just rumours. The very fact long-time collaborator Rick Rubin is at the helm is proof enough that while the production is mostly immaculate, ‘I’m With You’ is an exercise in how a multi-million selling rock behemoth plays it safe. Jeremy Allen
Many thanks to Alessandra for providing the transcript to this.