Rock’s ultimate survivors have returned with their first album in five years, their eleventh of their thirty plus year career. 2011’s ‘I’m With You’ was a fine album, but more of a steadying of the ship after their guitar virtuoso, John Frusciante, quit the band for the second time.
There’s already more intent and creativity on this Danger Mouse produced record (their first not to have Rick Rubin at the dials in over 25 years), which becomes apparent straight away, with beatboxing opening up the title track. Like a successful team, the Chili Peppers are not just about one member and have once again solidified as a unit after another upheaval.
‘Dark Necessities’, the album’s lead single, is the band’s best since the ‘Stadium Arcadium’ days. Since ‘I’m With You’ the Chili Peppers sound has become more organic. They’ve had to adapt and have done so with aplomb. Pianos and synths have slowly crept into their work (‘Goodbye Angels’) but they haven’t chucked in the kitchen sink in order to hide any insecurities. If anything, they’ve truly exposed themselves.
What the Chili Peppers have retained over the years is their energy. That force of nature they have continues to make them irresistible, and there are fewer bands who retain a youthful exuberance while aging gracefully. They’ve honed this combination of jump-out-your-skin funk with soothing spacey melodies, which guitarist Josh Klinghoffer has brought to the table (‘The Longest Wave’)
Still, funky slap bass from Flea (particularly on ‘Goodbye Angels’), rhythmic rapped vocals from Anthony Kiedis (‘We Turn Red’) and ghost beats from Chad Smith (‘Detroit’) all make a welcome return. And yes, there are mentions of California in the lyrics.
Josh Klinghoffer’s talents are showcased in ‘Go Robot’ with synth textures and minimal guitar work, ‘This Ticonderoga’, with its slab of garage rock riffage and on final track ‘Dreams of a Samurai’ with sumptuous backing vocals and guitar effects. The guitarist has slotted in well with the band and while he may not match the guitar god status of his predecessor, that won’t bother him or the band one bit because the chemistry and togetherness remains.
A little like their previous album, ‘The Getaway’ tends to sag in the middle but picks up the pace towards the end. That said, the songs are generally tighter and while they won’t hit the heights of the previous decade again, the red hot machine is still rolling.