New RHCP Album, Not Diggin’ It

I might be one of the biggest Red Hot Chili Peppers fans you’ll ever meet. RHCP was the music playing through most of my childhood. These were the songs I put on mix tapes for girlfriends, listened to before hockey games, rocked out to on the way to surf, and zoned out to on my earbud headphones when I should have been listening to lectures in school.

I’ve seen the transformation that Kedis and crew’s sound has undergone since the early punk/pop days. The reason RHCP will go down as one of the top 10 rock bands of all time is their ability to constantly bring in new sounds, play with new rhythms and influences. They are very much like one of those silly bands, their is an underlying shape to their sound, but it can be pulled in any number of directions at times to produce something completely different.

In 2006 RHCP released Stadium Arcadium, an album that broke many molds for the group. Each RHCP album tended to center around a specific theme or sound, they were often wholesale shifts from previous releases. Stadium Arcadium, a double disk album, was in many ways a compilation of many different RHCP sounds from the past. The album was masterful in the sense that they were able to reach back into their past, and pull out the best of their work, while updating it for today’s beats and rhythm.

Kedis also let Frusciante go completely nuts all over the album, he gave him free reign, by far his best work across an album. The chili peppers are best when Frusciante’s genius is given room to roam, instead of being boxed in to packaged melodies. Kedis is certainly not the talented one of the group, that much has been apparent forever, it is his energy that pulls everything together. He is also without a doubt a masterful poet.

I just sat down to listen to the new RHCP album titled “I’m With You”, their first release since Stadium Arcadium 5 years ago. I have to say, after one run through, I’m just not digging the new sounds that they are experimenting with on this album. There is a lot of electronica influence, Frusciante is also playing with a sound that is very reminiscent of some of the Smith Westerns, an indie band I’ve seen at the Bowery Ballroom. It’s not him, I don’t get it.

In other places, Frusciante experiments with this very washed out stringy sound, it’s just not him. His solos, which are rare, seem to not have any direction or purpose, there’s no fire in this music.

Many of the rhythms and melodies are bland, I have to say it almost sounds like they just mailed in half the album. Many tracks sound like stuff they’ve discarded in the past for just not having any punch to it. And if you want to go so far, you might say that it has the same lack of fire that much of By The Way exhibited. It’s all just very bland.

Kedis also plays around with a lot of talking on the tracks, something from way back in their past that I never really found exciting. Kedis isn’t a great rapper, if you want to call it that. He’s worked hard to get his voice to a place where it can croon on the same stage as Frusciante’s guitar, it’s a shame for him to waste that.

I can understand how this happened. Kedis is supposedly completely clean and happily married. John and Flea are also on the back sides of their crazy days and seem in good physical and mental health leading steady lives. As much as I’m happy for the guys, that they are doing well, this type of emotional mixture, or lack there of, doesn’t make for great music.

Great art requires conflict, angst, drugs, love, or the loss there of. Great art is born out of volatile situations or a need to prove something. Stadium Arcadium was the band’s moment to show that after By The Way, they could reach back into who they were and pull out the best. The material was pulled from Kedis’ attempt to finally get clean, and come to terms with what that meant, for him, his family, and the band. Frusciante and Flea wanted to prove that after a relatively lackluster album, their music was still relevant, that they could still bring it.

I don’t see the drive here, I don’t really see anything, I see a content group of individuals that released an album to release an album.

It’s not my place to say if that was a mistake or not, what do I know. And in no way does this taint their legacy. There are some decent tracks on the album, but overall it falls short of the genius of Stadium Arcadium, and that’s tough to come to grips with.

In any case, it’s definitely worth a listen on iTues as they are streaming the whole album for free. Let me know what you think.

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6 hours later: I’ve just been informed that Frusciante did not not play guitar on this album, it was someone else. I knew he was doing a bunch of solo stuff, but wow, Kedis wanted to make another record without him? This explains a lot, and they just aren’t the same without John.

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