Sound — 9
After yet another five year gap between albums, long-time arena cheeses Red Hot Chili Peppers crank out their eleventh studio album "The Getaway." Since their 2011 effort "I'm With You," the band really did need to tzsuj up their approach to things as the graceless segue into musical rich mans playgrounding on that record cemented a somewhat stale direction.
Measures were needed, emphases reshuffled, a bit of an overhaul from all aspects of their endeavors. The biggest twist comes from the replacement of cornerstone Rick Rubin with the odd choices of Danger Mouse and Nigel Godrich (who just finished up Radiohead's latest stunning release "A Moon Shaped Pool"). If nothing else, this change certainly swung the direction around a bit, or rather, has given "The Getaway" and actual direction to go to.
Still indulgent enough with what's available to multi-millionaire bands, there's much more of a unique character going around that hasn't appeared before in an RHCP album. Much more textural in design, the focus on pop hooks and singles has been toned down significantly. The first track, the title track, blends into familiar territory well enough but the overdubs, drum tones and repetition speaks far more of Danger Mouses trip-hop/electro-rock history. Working more as flourishes, it reveals more and more change as it goes on: the biggest one being that guitarist Josh Klinghoffer now has his own space in the band rather than just going along with the imprint left behind by Frusciante.
Strangely ethereal dub lines and extremely spacious reverb blends into these songs in various ways, not just in guitar form. Piano signals the shift from hard to soft in striking ways, adding a soothing edge to the rhythm sections spice. String parts come and go in various forms but their cinematic harmonies and arrangements act in similar fashions.
Not to say there's no grit going on, far from it. Driven bruisers like "We Turn Red" and "Detroit" have their fair share of softer bits but there's a hard, funky shell to crack around their innards. This is all very precisely exacerbated by Danger Mouse's approach to drums, an effect that was achieved on that one monumental album "St. Elsewhere" by his group Gnarls Barkley to great effect ("Necromancer" is the darkest hip-hop song you've never heard).
This is still balanced by an interesting blend of lighter stuff too. "The Longest Wave" starts off as the kind of sappy indie-funk blend that induces every kind of cringe but it's got this really nice blend of light details in the guitar and bass rhythms to stop it from stabbing itself. "Sick Love" is "comfortable" RHCP at its most comfortablist (???) and even has frickin' Elton John on the gentle piano infusions.
The second half of this album is where things get way more intriguing. Leaning more towards the floaty trip-hop style of Gorillaz and the aforementioned Gnarls Barkley, "Go Robot" is an '80s soundtrack joy that conjures up many-a-vaporwave visual ideas, "Detroit" is a sort-of-sister to Led Zep's "Immigrant Song" that also has one of the more progressive chord movements heard in an RHCP chorus and "The Hunter" is this extremely wide horizon of massively spacious blues, thematic cinematic "stuff" and hangover-fueled Kiedis crooning. Even "This Ticonderoga" and "Dreams of a Samurai" have a hint of Zappa weirdness about them.
Considering how much of a mix rut the overall feel of things has sounded since "Californication," things have actually become vaguely exciting again for RHCP.
Lyrics — 7
The element of Kiedis in RHCP is almost irreplaceable and to have the guy have five years to get his ideas together has worked out. He doesn't push the boat out so much as redecorates it with a few additions. Keeping to his heavily rhythmical approach and mid-range vocal comfort zone, there's less of the monotone rambling style of the irksome work of heresy "Dani California" (it's just a stupid song, ok) and more of a determined and focused attempt at narrative in his projection.
Lyrically, weeeeell... you knew he was eventually going to say KAH-LEE-PHAWN-YUH at least once on this record. Plus Kiedis' propensity to almost-ramble in the majority of anything he sings on does kick in a little bit here and there. However, "The Getaway" is at least thematic and the new feel from the production does compliment this rather nicely. It's a story that's being told over a continuous set of '80s and modern hybridized opening movie credits and generally alright movies too.
Ok, there's a touch of the "Kung Fury" about it but it's all alright really.
Overall Impression — 9
Comparing it in quality to past efforts feels like a miss-step, it'd be more honest to say that this Danger Mouse direction has spiced up, straightened up and improved the RHCP recipe. Klinghoffer feels great too, to the point where Frusciante is all but a distant memory. The appeal to many crowds is there in the details but there's still the RHCP vein going right through it all.
Songs to look out for: "Dark Necessities," "We Turn Red," "Go Robot," "Detroit," "The Hunter," "Dreams of a Samurai."