I’m With You

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Warner Brothers, 2011


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After guitarist John Frusciante flew the coop again, the Chili Peppers decided to soldier on with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who had toured with the band and knew the material. This decision mirrored a similar decision made in 1995 when Frusciante left and was replaced with Dave Navarro, resulting in the uniformly misunderstood One Hot Minute.

While there are slight allusions to that disc here, especially in the opening "Monarchy Of Roses," which strongly recalls "Warped," much of the music continues the work of Stadium Arcadium, the double disc that predated this one by five years. There is the expected Flea funk, the rewrites of "Under The Bridge," stupid Anthony Kiedis lyrics, and solid drumming from Chad Smith.

What is missing is a true guitar presence and a sense of fun. Klinghoffer is a good substitute but has no real contribution here; he is overshadowed by Kiedis and Flea, and much of the time, when you can even hear the guitar, it is buried in the mix or used as accompaniment only. Case in point: the first single, "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie," which is led by a bass riff, funky percussion and some vocals about a woman of questionable morals. The guitar emits brief notes, but they are quickly swallowed up, as if Flea feels this is his chance to shine.

The wised-up Peppers mostly steer clear of embarassing raps and showy displays, and there are a few times when the new lineup really clicks. "Monarchy Of Roses" starts off muted before the galloping bassline and drums explode, though what will grab the listener is the violent, Catholic imagery-filled lyrics above and beyond most Chili Peppers fare of old (there is even a reference to painter Raymond Pattibon). It's a dense, danceable song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Brendan's Death Song" is another highlight and Klinghoffer's moment to shine. The piece is a heartfelt, acoustic ode to the loss of a friend that slowly builds in intensity before culminating in the line "So when it's time to die / Even the reaper cries." The Peppers covered this ground before on One Hot Minute with the loss of band buddy River Phoenix, but this one blows that effort away.

It helps that Kiedis has matured as a vocalist – mostly – because imagining "Annie Wants A Baby" on any other Peppers record is not possible. Of course, then he spits out embarassing lines like "Hustle me bitch and you best beware" on the otherwise solid "Look Around" and "Cock blockin' isn't allowed" on "Rain Dance Maggie" and you have to shake your head.

But the real problem with most of the music, besides the lack of guitar, is the repetitive nature. Because Klinghoffer is pushed to the background, there are no real hooks to save "Look Around," "Factory Of Faith" or "Did I Let You Know," the latter of which also uses the word "Mozambiquey" as an adjective, surely a first in popular music. The album is great for bass freaks, but Chili Peppers fans will feel as if something integral is missing.

Even worse is a lack of inspiration in the songwriting, with many of the songs sounding like the worst of the midtempo, lackluster stuff on Stadium Arcadium. "Did I Let You Know," "Happiness Loves Company," the overlong "Police Station," "Meet Me At The Corner" and so forth simply sit there, offering very little for the time invested. You won't feel anything during or after hearing these, except maybe for the talking verses and relationship story of "Even You Brutus?”

Without Frusciante's creativity, vocal harmonies and guitar on One Hot Minute, the Chili Peppers were able to at least find a new side to their sound. Without him a second time, the well has mostly run dry, and with the exception of a couple notable songs, the weighty bulk of I'm With You is a dull slog. Hopefully it doesn't take another five years to break in Klinghoffer and offer an album worthy of the Chili Peppers name.

Rating: C-

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