Album Review

Jason Turner
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are nothing if not enthusiastic.

The band, which has been together in various incarnations for nearly three decades, seemingly never fails to bring energy and boundless enthusiasm to whatever they’re doing, and their 10th studio album, I’m with You is no exception. Whether or not you like what they’re bringing to the table, however, is an entirely different discussion.

With the exception of gay marriage and immigration, there are few things more divisive than the Chili Peppers; either you’re a fan of their bass-heavy, pop-funk fusion or you’re not. For the most part, I’m with You continues in that same Chili Pepper vein, but where previous gold and platinum efforts have highlighted the group’s talent for making their unmistakable brand of rock palatable to the masses by way of chart-topping singles, this album is regrettably short of standout tracks.

There is, however, certainly no shortage of ideas on this record; from conjuring up their inner Abba on Monarchy of Roses, to experimenting with ragtime piano, global rhythms and horns, the Chili Peppers manage to flex their creative muscles without veering too far off course. This is due in large part to the presence of three quintessential Chili Pepper ingredients; Flea-driven grooves, impeccable drumming and periodic, grammar-defying lyrics.

Nowhere is this formula more apparent than on the album’s first single The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie, a groovy bass-heavy track, featuring a sunny chorus and unintelligible outro gibberish. It’s fresh and familiar and demonstrates the Chili Peppers ability to be interesting and relevant even after nearly 30 years of writing songs. Unfortunately, it stands out like a Ginger on Jersey Shore.

Other tracks that hit the mark are Brendan’s Death Song and Police Station. These melodic ballads, like top-shelf Tequila, go down smooth and easy, but will be a particularly easy sell for fans of the Peppers’ softer, Under the Bridge side.

The problem with setting a high bar is the expectation that you will always be able to reach it. Although I’m with You is not the Chili Peppers’ best effort, it’s certainly not a failure. And at a point in their career when many of their contemporaries are licensing their music for diaper commercials and selling ‘classic’ albums on HSN, the Red Hot Chili Peppers should be commended for surging ahead to create and album that’s relevant and original.