Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers: I'm With You ***
Five years have elapsed since their bloated double album, Stadium Arcadium, and there's change in the Red Hot Chili Peppers camp. This, their 10th album, is the first without John Frusciante since 1987's pre-fame The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. Newcomer Josh Klinghoffer has been drafted in to fill the breach left by the troubled guitarist.
Elsewhere, it's as you were. Rick Rubin, who has produced every album since 1991 breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magick, is at the helm again, and the bulk of this lengthy album is precisely what we've come to expect from a RHCP record: think shouty vocals from Anthony Kiedis, Flea's purposeful bass and Chad Smith's thundering drums all adding up to funk-rock anthems seemingly machine-tooled to work in the enormous arenas that these Californians have long called home.
Such a description might please those looking for more of the same, but for the first half of this album those less enamoured with the band's sloganeering rock are unlikely to be converted. For 30-odd minutes and seven tracks, I'm With You is the sound of a band staying determinedly within their comfort zones. Factory of Faith and Annie Wants a Baby almost sound like pastiche Chili Peppers -- both are perfectly fine songs, but where's the innovation? One might have hoped for invention on Ethiopia -- a track reportedly inspired by Flea's involvement with the Damon Albarn project, Africa Express -- but there's precious little here.
The band finally try something that little bit different on Did I Let You Know? -- the first really arresting track on the album. There's a brass section and a guitar part from Klinghoffer that reminds me of Robert Fripp's visionary work with Bowie in the 70s, as well as one of Kiedis's better vocals (and lyrical content, for that matter: "I like the sound of your articulations").
Happiness Loves Company is a breezy, faintly Beatles-like number, while Meet Me at the Corner suggests the band are at their best when the tempo drops and Kiedis sings tenderly.
Best of the bunch, though, and the song that might tempt RHCP haters to reassess is the sprawling, ambitious Police Station, shot through with more than a touch of nostalgia and replete with a beguiling atmospheric ending.
Burn it: Police Station; Did I Let You Know?
Day & Night