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I'm With You
Red Hot Chili Peppers I'm With You
Released 29 August 2011
Producer Rick Rubin
Label Warner Bros.
Length 59:23
Genre Funk rock
Website redhotchilipeppers.com

Since the tragic death of Hillel Slovak in 1988 Red Hot Chili Peppers have had a revolving door of guitarists that has made Spinal Tap’s drummer turnover look normal. Big names like Dave Navarro, DeWayne McKnight and Arik Marshall have all stepped in for varying lengths of time but all ultimately failed to hold down the position. John Frusciante has been the most consistent with two extremely successful stints where the band produced their best work (Blood Sugar Sex Magik in his first spell and Californication in his second) however his personality never seemed to suit the big time stadium rocker lifestyle that came with being in the band and in 2009 he left for a second time. Frusciante’s friend and collaborator Josh Klinghoffer is the ninth person to take on the role of lead guitarist and I’m With You is the latest album from the new look Chili Peppers.

For those fans worrying of a complete stylistic change, akin to how One Hot Minute differed from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, you needn’t worry; while there are some new ideas explored I’m With You stays true to the Chili Peppers’ sound. Klinghoffer is clearly a capable guitarist, though it feels at times like he is holding back slightly when he should be taking songs by the scruff of the neck, perhaps he’s a little uneasy having accepted the poisoned chalice that is lead guitar. He fails to really interact with Flea’s bass lines in the same way that Frusciante did in songs like 'Scar Tissue' or 'By The Way' but he still manages to chew up a few tasty riffs over the course of the album.

Piano features quite prominently on this album, Flea decided to take piano lessons whilst the band were on hiatus following Stadium Arcadium while Klinghoffer is already an accomplished piano player, resulting in a new dimension to the Chili’s sound. 'Happiness Loves Company' allows the piano to take centre stage in an upbeat track that sounds like vintage Kinks while 'Even You Brutus' takes a less conventional route, using some lovely ethereal chord progressions in the intro. The piano parts aren’t exactly prodigious but they work within the confines of the album.

Behind all the funk and overly sexual themes that have defined the Chili Peppers throughout their career, there has always been the ability to write highly emotional songs like 'Under The Bridge' or 'Tearjerker'. They continue this trend with the deeply personal 'Brendan’s Death Song' a tribute to nightclub owner Brendan Mullen, a close friend of the band who gave them one of their first gigs back in 1983. Mullen’s death in 2009 coincided with the first jam session with Klinghoffer and this song grew naturally from the session. The tone is solemn, starting with a simple acoustic riff and Kiedis singing, before becoming quite uplifting fuelled by some ferocious drumming from Chad Smith.

For the most part I’m With You is a strong Chili Peppers album, punctuated by moments of magic like the disco bass of opening track 'Monarchy Of Roses', the melancholic beauty of 'Police Station' or the irresistible rhythm and catchy chorus of 'Did I Let You Know'. There are one or two songs that don’t really go anywhere and seem to be more concerned with fitting an interesting riff onto the album. The bottom line is when you get the Chili Peppers and Rick Rubin into the studio you are inevitably going to get something worth listening to and while it’s not quite a masterpiece it proves there is abundant life after John Frusciante for the band.

- Brian Kinsella