I'm With You by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Raw. Vulgar. Funky. For the past 28 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have given these words auditory meaning, earning the band a notorious reputation for seasoning the rock music scene with a mixture of punchy, spoken-verse lyrics, punk-inspired guitar and funk-heavy bass lines. The seven-time Grammy award-winning group has shared its spicy California flavor with listeners for decades, selling more than 65 million albums worldwide since the band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. Though its tenth studio album I’m With You (whose title is hard for me to disassociate from a 2002 Avril Lavigne song bearing the same name) is still an embodiment of the band’s talent, listeners may need to borrow some new words to describe it.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers solidified their unparalleled success in 1991 with the breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, featuring the forever-famed singles “Give it Away,” “Suck My Kiss” and “Under the Bridge.” In these songs lead singer Anthony Kiedis addressed themes of promiscuity and drug addiction, transforming the crude into composed creativity and proving that often life’s toughest experiences inspire the most moving art. Comparing the band’s new album to these past masterpieces begs the question, “What inspires them now?” More about life and love and less about sexual conquest and a narcotic-centric world, the new subject matter indicates the band has matured. However, fans not ready to grow up may feel like the band has lost the will to party.
Radio ready tracks, like the album’s first single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” feature choruses tame by classic Red Hot Chili Peppers’ standards: “Hey now/We’ve got to make it rain somehow.” Other tracks like “Meet Me at the Corner” and “Police Station” follow suit by proclaiming more mature messages: “Meet me at the corner and tell me what to do/cause I messed up on you,” and “I saw you in the church and there was no time to exchange. You were getting married and it felt so very strange.” But Kiedis is a skilled storyteller, and listeners can still expect to hear some of the Californian’s characteristic coarse thoughts that they know and love. On “Did I Let You Know,” Kiedis boasts, “I like to get inside your mass production. This indecision has/ has got me cringing well, I can’t resist the smell of your seduction.” Disappointingly, Kiedis doesn’t sound like he is dirty talking the way he did in the past.
Starting with the band’s 1999 album Californication, Kiedis transitioned from a majority of spoken, rap style vocals to more melodic ones, which is evident on this new album. The replacement of rapped verses with more fluid ones essentially eliminates a Red Hot Chili Peppers trademark that has proved so valuable in bolstering the band’s backbone and crafting its praised sound. Instrumentally, the tracks on I’m With You are not as memorable with choruses difficult to distinguish from one another. Nonetheless, futuristic elements on tracks like “Factory of Faith” provide a respite from this repetition, while Flea’s virtuous bass lines still impress as old stand-bys.
Though grown-up lyrics and overused choruses may make listeners wonder where all the spunk went, there is no doubt that the Red Hot Chili Peppers still know what they’re doing; it just might be that their goals have evolved in conjunction with their music. I’m With You is sign that they are falling back on the commercial success of Californication rather than reverting to the “Under the Bridge,” days, but can anyone blame them?
The new album is not ground breaking in today’s musical context, so listeners can’t expect to experience the same feeling they once did in the 90s while blaring the beloved beats of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. That album was revolutionary for its time, and its old tracks became our cherished friends—we know them inside and out. I’m With You is not as raw, vulgar or funky as the Red Hot Chili Peppers has shown the world before, but everyone has to grow up someday.