Album ReviewsHot

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

on August 26, 2011, 8:00am

In a recent editorial by Chuck Klosterman, the pop culture enthusiast discusses a new system he’s created, alongside friend Bill Simmons, which allows music fans to assess the value of a particular musician within the scope of a band. He calls it the “Rock VORM,” which takes itself from the more agreeably quantifiable baseball statistical method, labeled VORP, an acronym for “Value Over Replacement Player.” Over a six-prong list, which includes the member’s songwriting, sonic contribution, visual impact, live performance, attitude, and intangibles, a musician is assigned a numerical, for lack of a better word, worth — all out of 100 total points a band receives. It’s a little technical, but the ideology behind it makes sense.

To make his point, Klosterman used The Strokes’ Albert Hammond, Jr. as an example. After all of the “crazy math,” the fashionable guitarist received a Gross Rock VORM (GRV) of 27, while his Adjusted Rock VORM (ARV) was settled at 5.4. Now, arguably, this is all speculative thinking, but it seems all too fitting when discussing the Red Hot Chili Peppers at present, who return with their 10th studio album, I’m With You, and their first without John Frusciante since 1995’s One Hot Minute. In hindsight, Frusciante could garner a GRV of 36 with an ARV of 9.0; in other words, he was an incredibly valuable asset to the group.

But the LA collective has a knack for bouncing back. They’re the kings of rebounding. Frusciante swept in when previous guitarist Hillel Slovak passed away, and Dave Navarro managed to squeeze out a few hits with the boys when Frusciante originally left. Suffice it to say, they’re strong survivors. As Chad Smith told Rolling Stone recently, “We’ve been through the guitar player mill, and here we are again.” Now in lieu of Frusciante comes 31-year-old guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. The result? Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and Smith have an edge again, something their last album — 2006’s James Cameron-sized Stadium Arcadium – lacked.

“Down home country, I rest my face on your bed,” Kiedis yelps on the storybook-geared “Police Station”, which lyrically feels like a recent Bob Dylan track. Okay, so he’s still chatting up troubled, erratic girls, but at least he sounds assured. Behind him, there’s some light piano. You get the idea that the band’s “dabbling” again — which is great. Whereas 2002’s exceptional By the Way felt jarringly creative, it was mostly Frusciante’s doing. On I’m With You, everyone’s pitching in. Outside of Atoms for Peace, Flea hasn’t sounded this authentic in recent memory; on opening track “Monarchy of Roses”, the toothy wunderkind squeezes a decade’s worth of lightbulb-driven disco into one horseback riding bass line. Smith doesn’t let up, either. Years from now, fans will contend that this is certainly his album. Hell, just take one listen to “Goodbye Hooray”. Thanks, Chickenfoot.

So, what about the big elephant in the room, aka Mr. Klinghoffer? Quick answer: He’s the best replacement the band could ever want. Long answer: As a longtime friend of Frusciante, Klinghoffer still holds on to plenty of his past mentor’s work, which lends for an amicable if not confusing listen. On the saucy “Look Around” or the afternoon bender “Meet Me at the Corner”, you can’t help but feel he’s channeling the former guitarist. The wiry antics that recall Hendrix and the flashes of flamenco insinuate that he’s still not ready to be himself, which, admittedly, is probably the smartest decision. (Hey, go ask Navarro.) Still, there’s enough here to reveal Klinghoffer as an individual; you can hear it slightly in the paranoid needlework that supports “Factory of Faith” or those island-roasted acid strokes that lead “Did I Let You Know”.

What hurts I’m With You is what has plagued the last few Chili Peppers releases: Kiedis’ vocal tones. It’s unfair to think he’d still knock out melodies like those in “Power of Equality” or “Fight Like a Brave”. It’s just not realistic. But this two-pitch serving tires fast — especially for 60 minutes. Lyrically, he may be sharper, but melodically he comes off as increasingly predictable. Sometimes it works (“Brendan’s Death Song”, “Look Around”); other times it dulls the song (“Annie Wants a Baby”, “Dance, Dance, Dance”). Even when he skews left field, like say on “Even You Brutus?”, he innately clicks back into the same ol’ funk, no pun intended.

It’s because of this that I’m With You feels slighted. Instrumentally, it’s one of the stronger efforts from the band, but altogether it doesn’t do enough. Kiedis is looking in the right direction — there’s nary a use of the word “California”, thank god — but he’s still playing it safe. Actually, it might not even be a comfort thing; it could simply be that he’s worried about fixing something that commercially isn’t broken. Or maybe it’s something else. In the aforementioned Rolling Stone interview, the 48-year-old frontman discusses Klinghoffer’s work ethic, stating, “We’ll play a song, and I’ll think, ‘Fuck that is so good.’ Then I’ll look over, and [Klinghoffer is] kicking his equipment. He’ll hear one itty-bitty thing that didn’t go right with his pedals. It felt so good to me. But he wants to get it more correct.” Perhaps Kiedis should subscribe to this brand of insight. Could you imagine what that would do to Klinghoffer’s GRV? Unreal.

Essential Tracks: “Police Station”, “Brendan’s Death Song”, “Look Around”

Feature artwork by Cap Blackard.

19 comments

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Matt
September 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Pulling a tantrum?
“When I quit the band, over a year ago, we were on an indefinite hiatus. There was no drama or anger involved, and the other guys were very understanding. They are supportive of my doing whatever makes me happy and that goes both ways.
To put it simply, my musical interests have led me in a different direction. Upon rejoining, and throughout my time in the band, I was very excited about exploring the musical possibilities inherent in a rock band, and doing so with those people in particular. A couple of years ago, I began to feel that same excitement again, but this time it was about making a different kind of music, alone, and being my own engineer.
I really love the band and what we did. I understand and value that my work with them means a lot to many people, but I have to follow my interests. For me, art has never been something done out of a sense of duty. It is something I do because it is really fun, exciting, and interesting. Over the last 12 years, I have changed, as a person and artist, to such a degree that to do further work along the lines I did with the band would be to go against my own nature. There was no choice involved in this decision. I simply have to be what I am, and have to do what I must do.
Sending love and gratitude to you all.”

D Wave
September 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I think Red Hot Chili Peppers eventually delivered a great album. Flea once again proved to be an incredible musician, Chad is an unstoppable rhythm machine, Kiedis is ok and even if Josh Klinghoffer is not Frusciante, he’s still functional and well placed in the band. There are great songs in this album, like “Goodbye Hooray”, “Police Station” and the amazing ballad “Brendan’s Death Song”.Definitely a rebirth for them…!If you like, feel free to drop by my blog to read my review: http://www.dwaveonline.com/2011/09/im-with-you-new-red-hot-chili-peppers-album-review-2/See you soon! :-)

Sitch
September 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Dave Navarro? Is that you?
Whether we like it or not, John Frusciante brought RHCP to greatness. Yes Flea is the bassist player ever, but he is still just the bassist. Unless Frusciante comes back, I don’t believe we will hear anything at the top level of BTW, or Californication.

Real Gone
September 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

‘I’m With You’ is far, far better than I thought it would be. Read my full review here: http://www.realgonerocks.com/2011/09/red-hot-chili-peppers-im-with-you/

Solankil
August 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm

After listening to this album for a couple of days, I was not that impressed, RHCP could do much better with the talent that they have. Their previous three albums were much better, I guess John F leaving changed their sound and it does not sound that good in my opinion, again this is not a terrible album but it could have been much better with the talent that they have. I f you like this album make sure you give this album a chance also.
 

skutch
August 28, 2011 at 8:47 pm

saying that rhcp released this just because of a contract or some other stupid speculation is ignorant. kiedis is a poet, flea is an all around talent, chad is one of the best, and josh will surprise us. this album deserves its credit.

and secondly, the chili’s were the chilis before john. and they will be after

whoreshack
August 28, 2011 at 1:10 am

This band’s fallen so far, we may as well start calling them Aerosmith.

Phill
August 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

John frusciante is the closest equivalent my generation had to Jimi Hendrix. For the chilipeppers to go on without him is the same as If the Experience went on without Jimi. I honestly believe this album was put out to satisfy their contract. Goodbye RHCP may you forever R.I.P.

Gest
August 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Needless, not Needles. Yeah, happens I’m a fag when it comes to this band I guess.

Gest
August 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm

The correct lyric from Police Station is “down home country / I rest my face on your bed”, not “tell your country”. The obvious fact that the reviewer didn’t even read the booklet adds to the impression that he didn’t even listen to the album properly, sounds more like he listened to the leak a couple times and wrote a review. Looks like CoS wanted to be the first ones to put up a review or something. Rather put up a review next week, but write a good one instead. Needles to say I don’t agree with the reviewer. But hey, since I’m some sort of a fanboy, what do I know.

Michael Roffman
August 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

We were given a stream – no ”booklet” with lyrics. What’s more, I actually double checked online and several sites have it listed as “Tell your country.” So…?

Gest
August 27, 2011 at 8:35 am

Well, if you do an album review, I expect you to actually hold the album in your hands. To actually listen to the CD or even vinyl release. If you admittedly only listened to the stream, the title of this should say “Stream Review”, not “Album Review”. And like I said, the lyrics in the album sleeve say “down home country”.

One way or another, I guess I’m  just bitching because our opinions differ. Seen as, the review was well-written and all. I’m just disappointed that you didn’t even seem to have listened to the actual release of this, just the stream. I don’t think you can form a full opinion on an album unless you have held the acutal release in your hands and listened to it.

Michael Roffman
August 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Well, you’re going to have to discredit pretty much every review online then. Regardless, I took another listen and do agree that it sounds like “Down home country…” Looks like plenty of sites out there will have to edit this down the road.

As for your preference for physical albums, I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing better than holding an album in your hands. Unfortunately, you don’t always have that opportunity come press time.

Thanks again, Gest.

Gest
August 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Yeah, release schedules are a thing I definetely didn’t consider, my bad. But I’m glad to see that you actually edited that lyric. I’m not sure about the US release, but as far as I’m concerned the album will be released in the US on Tuesday, 30th. I’m living in Germany, and yesterday was the release of the album over here. So I’m holding the album in my hands, and kindof read the lyrics Kiedis himself wrote on the album sleeve. I don’t think he misspelled something, if you get my point.

After all, a review is nothing but the writer’s opinion, and why would we argue about that. Like I said, I have to agree with most of the other commenters, I really like and enjoy the album. But it’s great to see that you, as the writer of the review, actually replied. This kind of closeness to the audience is definetely a nice thing to have. So, compliments to CoS and especially to you sir.

Gest
August 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Yeah, release schedules are a thing I definetely didn’t consider, my bad. But I’m glad to see that you actually edited that lyric. I’m not sure about the US release, but as far as I’m concerned the album will be released in the US on Tuesday, 30th. I’m living in Germany, and yesterday was the release of the album over here. So I’m holding the album in my hands, and kindof read the lyrics Kiedis himself wrote on the album sleeve. I don’t think he misspelled something, if you get my point.

After all, a review is nothing but the writer’s opinion, and why would we argue about that. Like I said, I have to agree with most of the other commenters, I really like and enjoy the album. But it’s great to see that you, as the writer of the review, actually replied. This kind of closeness to the audience is definetely a nice thing to have. So, compliments to CoS and especially to you sir.

Michael Roffman
August 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Well, you’re going to have to discredit pretty much every review online then. Regardless, I took another listen and do agree that it sounds like “Down home country…” Looks like plenty of sites out there will have to edit this down the road.

As for your preference for physical albums, I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing better than holding an album in your hands. Unfortunately, you don’t always have that opportunity come press time.

Thanks again, Gest.

Rmalewski
August 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm

What are you guys talking about – the album is bleeping amazing!!!!

Moriah_russell
August 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm

This article is really good. I have read several articles lately on the new RHCP album and was not enlightened on much. In fact they just focused on the same old shit, same questions the others asked, etc. What I liked about this article was the honesty without bashing them. I don’t think they have died down as artists and while I keep “studying” the album, ehh.. I really like it but could not figure out what was off. THIS ARTICLES HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD! Unfortunately, its Kiedis’ vocals. :(   Its true… everything mentioned. The instruments are wonderful..his vocals are bland and keep getting repetitive, Anyways..this article hits everything dead on. Hopefully, this new album will produce constructive criticism. While I am a huge Frusciante fan (can’t wait for a new solo by him) if he is not dead set on being with the Chilis then why hold him to it? Josh is incredible and I agree he is likely playing it safe. This album is a warm-up for them. The 3 other members wanted to keep going forth and who can blame them? They’re all amazing artists. Now we listeners/fans have a young and hardworking talented Josh to debut this new chapter for RHCP. I’m all for it. Good article!

star child
August 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm

An album can NEVER be a warm up for a band…the album is what it is…either good or bad. This one sounds like its gonna be dull like every one since BSSM. Meh. Too bad, they were once great.

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