I won’t bore you with the details of John Frusciante’s second departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers: you know that he’s out and you know that his protege Josh Klinghoffer is in. Their first album together is called I’m With You.
And it’s a funny thing, after years of Frusciante’s guitar work being the only redeeming feature to a large amount of detractors, the band continuing on without him aren’t all that different: Klinghoffer’s guitar work is more restrained and textural, and thankfully gone are the days where, for most songs an almost formulaic Frusciante solo and plethora of overdubs would weigh down a song, leaving both drummer Chad Smith and bassist Flea in the dust.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing guitarist and any artist on earth would be lucky to have him, but in the later years of his time with the Chili Peppers it seemed as if his talents would be better suited elsewhere, and so the new band understandably sounds different: Flea seems to have taken control both with the bass and the piano, as he did with 1995’s One Hot Minute, the much derided album with Dave Navarro – and the results are another interesting addition to their catalogue, both classic Chili Peppers but also a brand new sound that moves away from their previous work.
The first thing you notice is that the band seemed to have learned from previous mistakes in a couple of ways; the shorter running time – I’m With You is half the length of 2006’s Stadium Arcadium – and the very positive lack of insipid faux-funk songs that seemed to have been churned out unwillingly by the band in recent years. Every time the band enter that territory, such as on the brilliant and wonky “Ethiopia,” or the lead single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” it’s more believable, interesting and just plain better than songs such as “Hump De Bump” – quite possibly the worst song they ever wrote.
Anthony Kiedis has also improved as both a lyricist and a singer, where in previous albums his nonsense poetry and clear autotune usage would bring the band down, on I’m With You he sounds more confident than ever, and while there might be the odd clunker here and there, it is – to put it bluntly – the least embarrassing he has ever sounded, and the band is all the better for it; “Brendan’s Death Song,” a touching tribute to LA Punk legend Brendan Mullen and clear future single, is one of the best songs the band have ever released.
And whilst its not all good, the strength of the album is that the lows are merely uninteresting, instead of outright bad, such as “Annie Wants A Baby” or the middling “Look Around.” But these are more than made up for by the almost LCD Soundsystem-like “Factory of Faith” or the downright bizarre “Even You, Brutus?” – an extension of the spoken word coda on Stadium Arcadium’s “Death of a Martian.”
All in all, the album is an above average collection for a band well past their expected use-by date; and with new blood injected into them, a world tour booked, and promises that they’ll continue writing on tour, they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. This could be the beginning for a highly successful era of the band.