Sound — 9
I should probably just straight away make it clear that I'm an absolutely huge fan of John Frusciante. His music, especially with the Chili Peppers, has shaped my own musical evolution in the biggest way possible. He was and still is one of my all-time musical heroes and will always have a special place in my heart. I will also state that when John Frusciante left the Chili Peppers it was a clear ending of that era, he stated he was no longer interested in being in a big rock band. As much as it hurt, the world turns on and music has to be made or the world will end, right? The album I'm about to talk about really has nothing to do with our good friend John. This is, to spell it out clearly, a New Red Hot Chili Peppers. So last time we were in this position "One Hot Minute" happened which is enough to raise worries about what to expect from a new guitarist. It was ok, but it didn't really feel like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The good news is that any fears in that regard are quickly quashed as I'm With You seems to encapsulate everything that the Red Hot Chili Pepper are really about. It has all the themes and ideals you'd expect and want if you're familiar with their previous albums, but what's new here feels like a genuine evolution rather than a puzzle with a missing piece. It seems Josh Klinghoffer's puzzle piece slots in perfectly and along with Flea's new focus on playing piano and composition; I'm With You sounds like one of the most diverse and complete Chili Peppers albums since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Just to clarify before you accuse me of sacrilege, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" saw not only the perfection of what the Chilis had been doing for years but an evolution in terms of songwriting and scope. I believe the same thing has happened with "I'm With You", their sound is still rooted in their trademark funk/rock but the diverse influences and love for all things music are as clear as they ever were. Not only that but it also comes perfectly at a time when it seems a lot of long term, dedicated Chili Peppers fans might be starting to feel like they may have heard it all before. The shift in songwriting input on the album is used perfectly as an ingredient and driving force in this respect, alongside the raw energy and funkiness rather than a hidden supporting pillar. This is most clearly evident in many of the sumptuous chord changes in tracks such as "Goodbye Hooray", "Meet Me At The Corner" and "Police Station", also in a perfected execution of melody with the simple, infectious and beautiful vocal lines of tracks such as "Did I Let You Know", "Brendan's Death Song" and "Police Station". One more thing I'd like to highlight is the re-appearance of the brilliant unexpected middle sections which haven't been done so well in god knows how long; such as demonstrated in songs such as "Look Around" and "Goodbye Hooray". This is almost the perfect analogy for what the whole album is, the beautiful unexpected middle section of the Chili Peppers musical evolution.
Lyrics — 8
If you're a fan of the Chili Peppers, you know what your going to get lyrically. Mostly an almost stream of consciousness style of what Keidis is thinking, feeling and has experienced. As you'd expect from this you get the odd line that's a little cringy but hey, such is the game of self expression. As evident from his origins, Keidis is a very rhythmic lyricist, as it perfectly fits his and the bands style, so he's more likely when chosing words to pick ones that just sound and feel good in the context of the song. Keidis' lyrics aren't meant to be clear in terms of understanding exactly what he's talking about, its an expressive form rather than informative and he generally manages to create something which is both clearly very specific to him whilst also being really very universal. Being aware of Josh Klinghoffer's work before this album I knew he's got the vocal capability. What is a complete joy on this album is not only that Josh's harmonies are ever present and utterly perfect, there are also a few sections where Josh steps up and sings part of the main vocal melody. It's clear the band have given themselves time to mould around each other and let Josh bring as much of himself into the mix to create something new. And put simply, it just works, beautifully.
Overall Impression — 9
While the diversity of the songs might completely do it for me, I'm certain that there will be plenty of people who will like some songs and not others. People may find the complex time signatures and polyrhythms on "Ethiopia" a little alienating, and others may find the straight, almost disco-pop feel to "Factory Of Faith" a bit too simplistic. To those I say variety is the spice of life, there's enough to bind these songs together while keeping them distinct entities, and I can't help but feel that's exactly as an album should be. I have been listening to this album for coming up to a year now and my love for practically every song on the album has only grown over time. With a few exceptions these are songs with depth, layers and lasting beauty to stay with you. I did mention exceptions, I'm not completely enamoured with "Annie Wants A Baby". there's nothing particularly wrong with it, it just feels like its lacking some of the excitement and energy of the other tracks. I also feel that "The Adventures Of Raindance Maggie" is suffering a little from "first single-itis". Both of those songs seem a little straightforward, and as such overtime have suffered a little. It is however worth remembering that even the weakest Chili Peppers songs are still beautiful and valuable pieces of music. One thing's for sure, you shouldn't confuse any song with another on this album, every song has its own flavour and the album as a package is a lot stronger for it. The varied textures throughout the different tracks are a fantastic multi-coloured splat of brilliance in what feels like a rather black and white striped world of today's popular music scene. Of course the musical diversity wouldn't mean much without the amount of love and care that's evident in the sheer quality of the songs, such as you'd expect from the Chilis. Embracing styles, sensibilities and sounds from a surprising reach of genres, there's not a single ounce of musical prejudice or snobbery which seems to plague the music industry and so many other bands and musicians work. It's incredibly refreshing and exciting in a time when most music seems to be about playing it safe and sticking to what's commercially expected so as not piss off stubborn fans and critics. Through all this the band has retained their trademark sound we know and love whilst exponentially expanding its horizons. Anthony Keidis said about the album "This is a beginning" and the possibility that another album will be made with Josh Klinghoffer makes me excited about the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a way I hadn't expected. They have always been about quality, creativity and fearless freedom of expression, on "I'm With You" I think they've outdone themselves.