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Red Hot Chili Peppers
add new guitarist,
but stick with same formula

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
(Warner Bros.)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: September 14, 2011
Red Hot Chili Peppers

Review by Tony Bonyata

A lot has happened in the 27 years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their self-titled album. They've withstood the death of a bandmember (guitarist Hillel Slovak in 1988), battled with drug addictions, and a weathered a soap-opera of revolving guitarists over the years (John Frusciante [twice!], Arik Marhshall, Jesse Tobias, Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro, Slovak and now Josh Klinghoffer).

They've also been homogenizing the loose-cannon punk/funk/rap sounds of their earlier records into a more melodic, radio-friendly format. Whether this has been a good thing really depends on what side of the stage you're on. The Peppers certainly can't complain, as every one of their albums since 1989's Mother's Milk has gone multi-Platinum. But for fans of their unruly early works, the band's sanitized rehashing from their own past hasn't always reaped such rewarding dividends.

Such is the case for the Peppers' recently released tenth studio album, I'm With You. This is the first album to feature guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, replacing John Frusciante after leaving the band for the second time since his first departure in '92. While Klinghoffer turns in fine performances throughout, the musical chemistry of Frusciante's intricate guitarwork (which was as graceful as it was menacing) with the rest of the band is, unfortunately, lacking. But then things never really gelled either when Dave Navarro originally replaced Frusciante on the Chili Peppers' 1995 album One Hot Minute (arguably the band's most direct "Rock" album).

Whether or not Klinghoffer eventually eases into the mix and is able to take the band somewhere new is yet to be seen, but the real issue with I'm With You is not the new guitarist, but rather that the band is content to tap into the same formula they've been using ever since their 1991 breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. A sprinkle of funk here ("Factory Of Faith"), a bit of rapping there ("Even You Brutus?"), and, their now, ubiquitous pop-leaning ballads ("Brendan's Death Song" "Meet Me At The Corner," "Police Station") and you've pretty much figured out what any new Red Hot Chili Peppers record is going to sound like.

With that said, however, there are still enough redeeming qualities on this record to prick the ears of fans old and new. The opening track "Monarchy Of Roses" finds singer Anthony Kiedis offering a dark and muted vocal delivery reminiscent of the post-Japan work of David Sylvian. "Ethiopia" mixes bassist Flea's greasy funk-lines with Kiedis' bouncy gibberish and transforms the track into some kind of world-music house-party, while the entire band seem to finally lock into one cohesive unit on the catchy number "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," complete with a rubbery disco bass-line and ‘we need more cowbell' ethos. Then there's the glistening rap-rocker "Look Around," which could've been near flawless had it not been for the annoying synthetic boot-scooting hand-claps peppered throughout the choruses (and, man, is it annoying).

Like recent Red Hot Chili Peppers albums, I'm With You fails to break any new ground, but, like those releases, will undoubtedly still end up selling millions. I'm happy for them. For myself - a fan of their chaotic earlier works - not so much.

Related articles:

Red Hot Chili Peppers / Gnarls Barkley - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Feb. 2007
Red Hot Chili Peppers (Voodoo Music Experience 2006) - Festival review - New Orleans, LA - Oct. 2006
Red Hot Chili Peppers (Lollapalooza 2006) - Festival review - Chicago, IL - Aug. 2006
Red Hot Chili Peppers / Queens of the Stone Age - Concert review - Madison, WI - May 2003
Red Hot Chili Peppers / Stone Temple Pilots - Concert review - Tinley Park, IL - Aug. 2000
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Concert review - Madison, WI - Mar. 2000
Red Hot Chili Peppers - By The Way
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication

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