Red Hot Chili Peppers | The Getaway | 8/10
Want to insult a rock band? Just call them “predictable”. But, by 2011’s ‘I’m With You’, that’s exactly what Red Hot Chili Peppers had become. Even without longtime guitarist John Frusciante, their 10th studio album sounded, at best, like business as usual.
So, for its follow-up, they’ve shaken things up. Rick Rubin, in the producer’s chair since 1991’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ is out, replaced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and, with him, a new approach to writing and recording. Encouraging the group to create and record in the studio, the man who’s worked with everyone from Norah Jones and Adele to A$AP Rocky and The Black Keys has helped them craft an album that sounds fresh and relevant without ever trying too hard.
As a collaborator, Burton has clearly added some of his signature touches – from the melancholy keyboard textures to the occasional ‘80s electronic beats – but this is very much a Chili Peppers record. Anthony Kiedis may have dialled down the rap stylings of ‘Suck My Kiss’ and ‘Around The World’ but songs like Elton John co-write ‘Sick Love’, free-floating ‘The Hunter’, sabre-rattling ‘This Ticonderoga’, smooth-as-caramel ‘Encore; and enigmatic ‘Dreams Of A Samurai’ feature the frontman’s finest singing and strongest vocal melodies yet.
Drummer Chad Smith plays with newfound subtlety, while guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s alternately chiming and jangling guitar tone has, after five years of touring, been fully integrated into the band’s sound. Bass player Flea, fresh from a broken arm that delayed recording by six months, is all over ‘The Getaway’ – from the gritty ‘Detroit’ to the swinging ‘We Turn Red’.
And the band are frequently greater than the sum of their parts, like on the dreamy title track that opens the album, funky free-wheeling lead single ‘Dark Necessities’, and especially the hands-in-the-air disco party ‘Go Robot’. It’s on songs like these, particularly, that the group formed over 30 years ago are still moving forwards. Just like the bear, raccoon, crow, and little girl on the album cover.