Sound — 8
The Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly don't have to prove themselves as musicians/songwriters at this point in their career, but at the same time they have plenty to live up to in terms of past commercial and critical success. With the inclusion of John Frusciante on 2006's "Stadium Arcadium", it was hard not to celebrate the return of both tasteful and funky guitar work that the forward-thinking guitarist consistently brought to the plate. Times do change, however, and the Chili Peppers' 10th studio album "I'm With You" drives this point home effectively. New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer although a collaborator of Frusciante's has an independent style of his own. Given all the side projects and musical schooling happening with bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith, those veterans are bringing plenty to the table as well. The resulting sound of "I'm With You" is often an eclectic group of rhythms and sounds from all parties, but it's not so out there that the Chili Peppers have forgotten the satisfaction one receives hearing a catchy chorus.
While the core songwriting on "I'm With You" is not necessarily too far of a stretch, the arrangements are what set this album apart from previous releases. Klinghoffer has a huge impact, but so does Flea, who has a stand-out intro bass line in a good chunk of the tracks. Smith, who has the talent to jam with artists from every genre, brings that traveled mentality with an array of beats many of which take on almost a world music vibe. Frontman Anthony Kiedis tends to be consistent with his vocals and doesn't stray too far from his usual style (yes, there is a bit of rap thrown in there).
The album draws from a variety of genres, from pscychedelia (Monarchy Of Roses), to a laid-back acoustic feel (Brendan's Death) to a slight Beatles' nod (Even You, Brutus?). That's not to say they are wildly out there, as the 14 tracks always tend to feel like they could be played on pretty much any rock-driven radio station. It truly is Klinghoffer's innovative additions that take the songs to the next level. He doesn't shy away from the funkiness, but he often adds in odd little touches that come out nowhere.
Factory Of Faith is driven by funk, but then all of the sudden you hear a guitar dub that could fit in a Cure track. Meet Me At The Corner is heavily steeped in jazz tradition well, except for a brief few moments at the end when Klinghoffer channels his inner country guitarist. It's honestly these bizarre arrangement choices to push the Chili Peppers sound in a much more interesting direction. And even if you don't care for the experimental approach, you can be assured that the Chili Peppers always return at the end of the song to a repeating, reliable, and memorable chorus.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrical content on "I'm With You" bounces between fun and philosophical, with the ideas rarely being predictable. That's always been a strength for the Chili Peppers, and thanks to Kiedis' commanding delivery, the lyrics are all the more effective. Standout moments include the short and the infectious Goodbye Hooray (Curb your tongue oh scallywag; Because you've got no flag to wave; Save your breath for the black and white; Every dog will have his day) and the quirky storytelling of the single The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie (Tick tock I want to rock you like the eighties; Cock blocking isn't allowed; Tug boat Sheila is in to memorabilia; Who said three is a crowd; We better get it on the go). Even if the big picture in every song isn't completely clear, Kiedis still can sell it.
Overall Impression — 8
"I'm With You" is certainly a far cry from the Chili Peppers' past albums, with a record like "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" seeming like an offering from a completely different band these days. But bands do mature and all that good stuff, and in many ways the Chili Peppers are conquering new musical horizons. At times each band members' musical additions might not even seem like they seem to be working with the core songwriting, but they are at the very least not afraid to try to delve into different time signatures, effects, and genres. Is every a song an instant classic on "I'm With You"? Not really, but there is also no lack of creativity in the end.