The Getaway

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner Brothers, 2016

http://redhotchilipeppers.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/23/2016

The Red Hot Chili Peppers has a certain pattern by now. The first album with their current guitarist is always fairly mediocre, but the second album is much improved. It’s true of Hillel Slovak and Freaky Styley, John Frusciante and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and now Josh Klinghoffer and The Getaway (Dave Navarro never had a chance to make a second album to replace the uneven, borderline-irritating One Hot Minute).

So The Getaway is better than I’m With You…remarkably so, in fact, likely because Klinghoffer is far more involved this time around. The 13 songs here are as diverse and melancholy as By The Way, following a similar template of reflective midtempo pop-rockers with light touches of funk and then a swath of stylistic variations on that sound. It’s nuanced and chilled where it needs to be, but then unexpected surprises pop up in the form of a bass solo, an Elton John collaboration, a popping funk homage or a nifty guitar lick.

I suppose your mileage on the disc will vary based on what other Peppers albums you embrace. Certainly, for men in their early fifties, trying to recapture the antics and lyrics and sound of the late ‘80s would be embarrassing, and I hope nobody still expects that; it died with Californication, as it should have. If you felt By The Way was an excellent album, then you’ll greatly enjoy The Getaway and how the quartet continues to find new spins on its unique, recognizable sound.

Granted, it takes a few songs to get there. It isn’t until the last minutes of the so-so fifth song “Goodbye Angels” when Flea comes in out of nowhere with a bass solo to end the song, which ends up as the turning point of the disc. “Sick Love” swipes the verse melody from “Bennie And The Jets,” but it’s cool because both Elton John and Bernie Taupin contribute to the song (a high-profile but unassuming and downplayed collaboration), and it’s a fun little track. “Go Robot” mixes disco funk with swirling neo-psychedelic white soul, suggesting an avenue the Peppers should have explored long before now. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And just when things threaten to float away on the mediocre “Feasting On The Flowers” (a song with so much wasted potential), the swaggering “Detroit” and “This Ticonderoga” inject the disc with riff-rock that’s been in short supply lately, even on this disc. “We Turn Red” is good, too, with Chad Smith pounding his drums almost cathartically. There’s even a cool Frank Zappa-like breakdown toward the end of the latter song; blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s the sort of stylistic twist that makes The Getaway warrant repeated listens.

“Dark Necessities” and “The Getaway” open the disc as the first two singles, released a few weeks before the disc to stir up buzz. They may not be indicative of the sound of the disc as a whole, but they are definitely in the same spirit. The former song is better, starting as a rehash of “Can’t Stop” but morphing into something better with some fantastic Flea slap bass to drive it forward. But “The Getaway” holds its own with some fine background vocals, muted guitar playing and an air of quiet desperation. Kiedis, as he has done since 2002, continues to sing instead of rap for much of the disc and rarely invents words or mangled turns of phrase, but every so often he’ll spout nonsense because it rhymes and sounds good in context. Fans know this, and live with it, so anyone using this as a knock on the album needs to get over it.

The closing trio of songs slows things down again for the lovely “Encore” and the swirling piano ballad “The Hunter,” which appears to be Kiedis confronting his aging and mentally-struggling dad in the lines “Even though you raised me I will never be your father / King of each and every Sunset Marquis / Even though you’re crazy you will never be a bother / You’re my Old Man In the Sea.” Better yet is the six-minute closer “Dreams Of A Samurai,” a song ostensibly about Scott Weiland and the third time they have closed a disc with a heartfelt song about a departed friend. The song uncoils slowly, working up an atmosphere and taking its time, adding an extra bar in the time signature after each line in the verse so the song never settles into a groove, forcing the listener to pay attention. It’s a neat trick (it might be in 11/8 time, but I’ll leave it to a music major to discern that) that befits the song, and it manages to be evocative and ambitious, ending the disc on a very strong note.

This is easily the most sophisticated disc of the Pepper’s long career, one not meant for parties, but these guys stopped being a party band a long time ago. Lush, well-produced (thanks to newcomer Danger Mouse, replacing Rick Rubin after 25 years), and memorable, The Getaway may not always have the fire and libido of the Pepper’s best work, but its subtleties and detours get under your skin all the same.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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