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Peppers still not to be sneezed at

AFTER 28 years of pumping the funk, the Californian wackoids may no longer be an essential hit for a flagging nervous system, but, to their credit, the Chilis still want to rock.

Financially, they don't have to. Sales of 60 million albums means the quartet could put their feet up. Given their years of squabbling, battling crippling drug addictions, struggling with physical and mental health problems and coping with a succession of guitar players, the Red Hot Chili Peppers owe the public nothing.


It's five years since they dropped Stadium Arcadium, a 28-track haul of trademark bluster and coy emotion. Since then, following their promotional tour commitments, the band took a couple of years off. During that time they lost guitarist John Frusciante for the second time. (He'd returned after his first departure.)

This time, like good boy scouts, the band were prepared. Josh Klinghoffer had been Frusciante's understudy and had also worked with Gnarls Barkley, Beck and PJ Harvey.

Despite being around since the early 1980s, when they crashed the Los Angeles punk scene with a fiercesome blend of high-octane funk and punk psychedelia, the RHCPs have released just 10 studio albums. This one also had Rick Rubin in the producer's chair. Presumably his job is to make sense of the band's eclectic mix of styles, influences and barmy ideas.

The wildmen, who once wore socks on their willies and played in the buff, may no longer seem quite so feral as they approach the big five-oh, but the dysfunctional LA upbringings of frontman Anthony Kiedis and bass-player Flea ensure that their creative thought processes are far from predictable


Unfortunately, while there are some powerful, attention-grabbing moments on I'm With You, too many of the 14 songs suggest the band frequently took the easy option.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong in sounding like Blondie occasionally, provided it's good Blondie and not some anaemic re-hash.

Monarchy of Roses, the album's opening track, will be reassuring to the band's long-term fans. Switching between claustrophobic psyche rock and disco-bass driven sunshine pop, it kicks the album into overdrive. This welcome statement of intent is followed by a funky bass and rap romp that keeps things on the good foot with Kiedis urging us, "Tell your friends, I've got a factory of faith...".

Brendan's Death Song, an album highlight, is a passionate ode to a friend who helped launch the band's career. Opening as an intimate acoustic ballad, it grows and develops into a surging anthemic hymn of optimism and defiance. It's evidence that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have lost none of the impulse that made them great in the first place.

By comparison, the simple campfire singalongs Look Around ("hustle me, bitch, and you best beware...") and Dance Dance Dance, where they sound like the Gibson Brothers, who hit big in the early 1980s with Cuba, are more Tamango nightclub than Under The Bridge.