The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ long awaited tenth studio album is finally here, 5 years after Stadium Arcadium’s 2006 release. In their newest album, the band has brought back some of their pre-Californication funkiness, something for which long time fans may have been longing. The 14 track album features some interesting album art (below), and marks the maturation of the band, while staying true to their roots (details in the “Ethiopia” section). My thoughts on each song and the full album are below. Be sure to comment and share your favorite songs off the new album.
1. “Monarchy of Roses” kicks off the album with Anthony Kiedis’s electronically twisted voice in a track that infuses distorted effects with an almost “poppy” chorus. Overall, a very good song that mixes two contrasting sounds. “Monarchy of Roses” isn’t great, but is a quality song with a great final 55 seconds. 7.5/10
2. “Factory of Faith” combines funky verses with a smooth melodic chorus, and ties them together with guitar solos and musical interludes. The interlude at the 2:30 mark is fantastic, and the outro is tactfully used as a way to show off new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. There are also some subtle niceties in the background such as electronic sounds and the riff from the outro woven in towards the start of the song. Overall, I think fans of the old funky Chili Peppers will love the verses and fans of the newer more melodic Chili Peppers will love chorus. Being a fan of the post-funk Chili Peppers myself, I find the chorus great and the verses acceptable. 7.5/10
3. The album’s emotional ballad “Brendan’s Death Song,” is tribute to a lost friend. Brendan Mullen was the owner of a small punk rock club in LA, and played a large role in the Red Hot Chili Peppers growth in the early stages of their careers. He passed away on the first day of rehearsals for the new album. When the band got the news they immediately began jamming and forming what would become “Brendan’s Death Song.” “Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer described the song as being part acoustic mourning, part galloping hard-rock send-off.” Kiedis described his favorite part of the song being the bridge, which is much darker and there is a feeling of falling into the unknown abyss of dying. 8/10
4. “Ethiopia” is a reference to Flea and Klinghoffer’s trip to Africa prior to recording, and is about the bands spiritual growth from drugs and alcohol to mediation. Here’s another song that brings back the old funky Red Hot Chili Peppers in the verses. Unfortunately, the verses are not anything to write home about and bring down a song that has a very good chorus and nice musical interlude around the 2:24 mark. 5.5/10
5. “Annie Wants a Baby” features some unique guitar work and interesting metaphorical lyrics such as the stanza below:
She likes the taste of it.
She had a goldmine,
But then she wasted it away.
The song doesn’t have much of a hook and won’t be the one to get stuck in head, but it’s certainly an enjoyable tune. 6.5/10
6. “Look Around” brings back the fun party sound from songs like “On Mercury.” Anthony Keidis gives us a familiar line when he utters “move it ah gotta get ya, wanna getcha” around the 2:45 mark. As a commenter informed me via e-mail, it is very similar to the bridge of “By The Way.” A simple, but catchy chorus and well written rhymes in the verses make this a fun and highly enjoyable song. I predict this will be the biggest hit on the album.
Note: “Look Around” has been played during the broadcasts of a good many sporting events on ESPN. 9/10
7. The album’s single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” released a few weeks before the album, marked a move back to the funkiness of the 80’s Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea lays down a consistent and prominent bass line adding a distinctive element of funk. The funky verses are in my opinion the weak part of the song, but the chorus is very good and much different from the verses. If you like the old funky Chili Peppers you’ll really love this track. 7.5/10
8. “Did I Let You Know” uses a trumpet solo from Flea and Klinghoffer on backup vocals for a unique twist. While the song isn’t particularly memorable, it’s a nice tune and works well on the album. 6/10
9. “Goodbye Hooray” may be the most “classic Red Hot Chili Peppers” sounding song on the album. Josh Klinghoffer ends the song with a extremely fast guitar solo, being sure to make his mark on the new album. 6.5/10
10. “Happiness Loves Company” starts a great trend within the album with Josh Klinghoffer on the keyboard. I love the song title which puts a spin on the expession “misery loves company.” At points the lyrics can get a bit abstract and hard to interpret, but this stanza is my favorite:
Make time for love and your happiness.
The mothers of invention are the best.
We all learn and struggle with some loneliness.
A tender mess for everyone I guess.
It’s a happy upbeat song, that really hits the mark. Also, kudos to Chad Smith for his work on this track! (Hyperlink contains special gift.) 8/10
11. “Police Station” wins the award for being the most beautiful loving song on the album. They added a nice touch with the keyboard and despite this song being relatively slow and soft, the guitar work is fantastic. The keyboard bridge at the 3:00 mark works extremely well. Keidis beautifully delivers the well written lyrics which seem to be about a lost love and the turns her life have taken. 9/10
12. “Even You, Brutus?” also takes advantage of one of the most beautiful musical instruments in rock today, the keyboard, and integrates it beautifully. There’s also somewhat of a rap/hip-hop sound in verses, however they make it work so that it adds intensity to the early part of the song. “Even You Brutus” is about betrayal, and the chorus artfully draws on a piece of Shakespearean literature from the play Julius Ceasar, where Ceasar’s best friend, Brutus, betrays and murders him. Overall, a interesting and unique song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, showing off some versatility using the keyboard and making a rap/hip-hop sound work better than any rapper could dream to. 9.5/10
13. “Meet Me at the Corner” is one of the softest songs on the album, and employs Josh Klinghofferon backup vocals more extensively than in any other track. His singing style may be effeminate, but it fits in with this soft track. Overall the song is somewhat boring until it picks up at the 3:00 mark, however the last minute and twenty seconds are amazing. 6.5/10
14. I can’t imagine “Dance, Dance, Dance” is about much more than sex, but the lyrics are poetic. The music is a little on the poppy side, but doesn’t miss the mark by too much. 5/10
As you can see, I really liked the songs that featured Josh Kilinghoffer on the keyboard, as did John Lewis of Uncut Magazine. The album had much more of a funk style than Stadium Arcadium, which was somewhat unexpected before the band released the single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” although I probably should have seen it coming even before that given the working title for album–Dr. Johnny Skinz’s Disproportionately Rambunctious Polar Express Machine-head. Luckily Klinghoffer suggested the title “I’m With You,” and the band decided to go with it rather than use the working title or a title track, the later of which they’ve done on every album since 1989’s Mother’s Milk. The album is gapless so the intro to some songs may sound strange, because the intros to some songs (e.g., “Look Around”) are really the outros from the previous track.
According to Flea, “life and death is a major theme of the album,” a theme which is most obvious in “Brendan’s Death Song.” They finally blended their old funky style with their newer more alternative rock stylings to perfection, hopefully pleasing their old school and new school fans. Overall I had extremely (probably even unrealistically) high expectations for the album, and while it didn’t quite meet those expectations, it was still a very good album from arguably the greatest band of the last 20 years.
Album: I’m With You 8/10
Note: I originally gave the album a 7.5, but after two months of listening I had to go back and upgrade it to an eight, giving more points to “Monarchy of Roses,” “Factory of Faith,” and “Look Around.”