Chili Peppers are still with us

Joe Llorin, Staff Writer

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After a two year hiatus, the Red Hot Chili Peppers made their return to the recording studio in 2009 to begin work on new material for their highly anticipated album I’m With You, which hit store shelves on August 29th, 2011.

Not only is this the band’s first album since Stadium Arcadium, it is the band’s first album since 1991 without lead guitarist John Frusciante, whose guitar work and song writing contributions played a considerably large factor in the band’s success over the last decade.

In place of Frusciante is Josh Klinghoffer, who has toured with the band several times. With Frusciante removed from the picture, Klinghoffer has incredibly massive shoes to fill.

According to Rolling Stone, lead singer Anthony Kiedis states the album is “no question a beginning”. That statement is proven with the album’s first track “Monarchy of Roses”. The song thrusts the listener into a world of music the Chili Peppers never unveiled- one consisting electronic effects and synthesized vocals.

The song sounds outlandish compared to their earlier material, which was heavily dependent on Frusciante’s guitar work. This new direction can discourage dedicated Chili Peppers fans. Other tracks that utilize these effects include “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”.

One can comprehend that the band experimented with their sound during the hiatus, and in the process, acquired new outlets of music they incorporated into their songwriting- such as bassist Flea learning piano while studying at the University of Southern California, and with Klinghoffer stepping in with experience in a wide array of instruments, including the piano as well.

Despite this “fresh” sound, these electronically aided tracks should not influence dedicated Chili Peppers fans to dismiss the album. Despite not having the masterfully emotional guitar work of Frusciante, Kiedis, along with Flea and drummer Chad Smith made sure to impress with their individual performances on several tracks, such as “Factory of Faith”, “Police Station”, and “Ethiopia”.

Although Klinghoffer’s guitar work isn’t nearly as outspoken as Frusciante’s was, he still makes an impressive debut, providing lead guitar, backing vocals to Kiedis, and sharing piano responsibility with Flea.

Although the band is exploring a new sound, the Chili Peppers deserve commendation for staying faithful to the sound of melancholy funk-punk rock with a dash of hip hop they made popular- as revitalized on several tracks, giving the listener a Stadium Arcadium-esque flashback in time with a little of 2002’s By the Way on the side.

One can argue that the album lacks the raw feeling and emotion that the team of Kiedis and Frusciante brought to the table with such collaborative efforts as their 1999 album Californication.

Upon further listening, fans will learn that the lyrics featured on the album dwell into some of the darkest topics the Chili Peppers have ever incorporated into their material – life, death, romance, rebirth and retribution, which have inspired past Grammy nominated songs such as “Scar Tissue”, “Under the Bridge“ and “Dani California”.

One example of the darker side of their lyrics is found in “Annie Wants a Baby Now”. The lyrics suggest that the title character Annie is going through an ongoing depression and she believes that a baby will somehow save her from said depression.

On first listen, I’m With You sounds almost nothing like what the Red Hot Chili Peppers previously were. With electronic effects aiding the band, the Chili Peppers appear to have lost their musical mojo.

However, with the spectacular efforts of Flea and Kiedis, the band pulls together to deliver a solid collaborative performance, despite being away from the music world for six years.

Newcomer Josh Klinghoffer doesn’t deserve any accolades for his performance on the album, but if he does deserve one thing, it is respect, for he did have some pretty large shoes to fill.

Overall grade: 7.5/10

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