In a nearly 30-year career, Los Angeles poster boys Red Hot Chili Peppers have been christened punk-funk pioneers, genre-bridging party-starters, intricate virtuosos, stadium-ready rockers, introspective balladeers and sunny elder statesmen of rock. Having weathered bandmate departures, massive infighting and the death of founding member Hillel Slovak, the band seemed impervious to failure, functioning on a near-nonstop writing/recording/touring cycle from 1999’s “Californication” to the end of the “Stadium Arcadium” tour in 2007. After taking a two-year hiatus to mentally regroup, the band returns with “I’m With You,” an album that sounds less like a departure than a distillation of the band’s disparate ideas.
For their tenth album, out now, the Chilis employed a mix of old and new collaborators to flesh out their sound. The band amicably parted ways with on-and-off guitarist John Frusciante, replacing him with “Stadium Arcadium” touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Rick Rubin, who has produced every Chilis album since 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” returned to the boards, producing more than 70 new tracks and making “I’m With You” the first album specially mastered for iTunes customers.
After nine albums and 50 million records sold, though, it’s natural for a band to question what’s left to accomplish and how strong is the desire to experiment with new ideas. Following 1995’s “One Hot Minute,” the band, then in their mid-30s, began to delve into more adult sounds. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis could still be counted on to bound around the stage in a frenzied panic, but sunny melodies and radio-friendly choruses were as much a part of the band’s sound as the hard rock, funk and hip-hop that informed much of the band’s earlier work. Growing up or selling out? Depends on your perspective. But the band, more than most, was able to make the transition from ’90s alternative band to stadium-filling anthem-creators. “I’m With You” is a continuation of this path; an album that doesn’t showcase many new sonic directions, but functions more like a victory lap for a veteran band. It may not make the Chilis any new fans, but it should please the countless ones they already have.
Here’s our Twitter-length track-by-track review of each song.
You be the judge: What do you think of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You”? Tweet us your own review at @billboarddotcom (using hashtag #bbrhcp). The best tweets will be posted on Billboard.com in the coming days.
1. “Monarchy of Roses” – Grinding, reverb-laced guitars and tribal drumming share space with driving funk-rock on regal-themed album opener.
2. “Factory of Faith” – Over Flea’s prominent, propulsive bass, Kiedis blends the sing-rap of “Mother’s Milk” and “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” with the mature crooning of “Californication” and “By The Way.”
3. “Brendan’s Death Song” – On the first day of rehearsals, the band was informed of the death of friend and co-biographer Brendan Mullen. This mellow, poignant track is their tribute.
4. “Ethiopia” – Inspired by Flea and Klinghoffer’s trip to the titular country, odd time signatures and mid-tempo funk lay the bed for lyrics of redemption and newfound spirituality.
5. “Annie Wants a Baby” – Klinghoffer’s brooding, dark chords and noisy punctuations anchor Kiedis’s evocative lyrics.
6. “Look Around” – The album’s most exuberant track, handclaps accentuate Smith’s bouncy rhythms as Kiedis raps like it’s 1989. That’s a good thing. This is the one the crowd’ll jump around to live.
7. “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” – For the band’s lead single, “Tick-tock, I want to rock you like the 80s” isn’t just a lyric, but a command to be obeyed in the sunny, funk-heavy track.
8. “Did I Let You Know” – A trumpet solo, drummer Chad Smith’s skittering beat and Klinghoffer’s breezy guitar riff highlight the track, with Klinghoffer sharing vocal duties and Kiedis singing endearingly goofy rhymes (“I want to lean on ya/Get Jan and Dean on ya”).
9. “Goodbye Hooray” – The album’s hardest, most aggressive track, “Goodbye Hooray” is Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard” if the boys from Birmingham grew up in California instead. The Chilis find time, though, to get melodic during the chorus.
10. “Happiness Loves Company” – Stomping drums and keyboards give the track an Americana. honky tonk vibe that stands as the album’s most upbeat song.
11. “Police Station” – One of the longest tracks on the album balances mournful regret with anthemic energy. Kiedis’s pained, elegiac lyrics recall the confessionals of “Under the Bridge” and “Scar Tissue.”
12. “Even You Brutus?” – Piano and a hip-hop beat notwithstanding, this one’s repeatability depends on your enjoyment of Kiedis’s use of spoken word in verses.
13. “Meet Me at the Corner” – Even with Kiedis’s dark lyrics, this mellow, brisk song has the lighters-in-the-air quality that will please fans of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson.
14. “Dance, Dance, Dance” – It may not become as prom ubiquitous as Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” but the mellow shuffle of the album’s closer will soundtrack 17-year-olds’ memories for at least a few years.