Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are one of the highest selling bands in the world, with their last seven albums all charting within the top 5 in the US. They are easily one of my favourite bands of all time, and have produced some of the best radio tracks ever. Having said that, their musical output hasn’t been top quality for a while now, in my opinion. Still, one of the singles that was released was promising, and with guitarist John Frusciante returning to the fold for the first studio album since 2006, it may be good. Let’s check it out and see!
Opening on their lead single, ‘Black Summer’, was probably a very good idea. I’ve loved this track since it was first released. After a slow-build of an intro it launches into an upbeat, fun funk-rock-pop track that is easily the best thing they’ve done since Stadium Arcadium. I’m a big fan of I’m With You and Klinghoffer’s playing, but man is it good to have Frusciante back. It just feels more like RHCP with his style of playing, writing and backing vocals back in the band. The chorus is massive and hugely catchy, and the guitar solo was awesome. I can’t praise this track enough. It easily makes the playlist and I really hope the rest of the tracks are like this or faster. Unfortunately, I have heard the other singles and that isn’t quite the case…
‘Here Ever After’ continues the mid-tempo pace, reminding me of a mixture of something from Stadium and By The Way. It’s heavily bass-led and features the almost rap-inspired vocal style Kiedis has utilised sporadically throughout his career. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really go anywhere. I was waiting for it to kick up a gear but it doesn’t, even the chorus is fairly subdued. It’s an odd choice for the second track on an album, when the audience is still feeling out as to whether they like it or not. Still, it’s not a bad track!
We finally get some fun funk out of Flea to open ‘Aquatic Mouth Dance’, Kiedis putting a great vocal line over the top of it to keep up the bounciness. It unfortunately suffers the same fate as the track before. Really, it’s the same major issue that I had with their last album, The Getaway: none of it goes anywhere. The vast majority of tracks on that album stay at the same subdued, chilled out level all the way through, no memorable changes or big choruses or anything interesting, just the same meh all the way through. That’s why I’ve been so apprehensive about this album even with John’s return, what if it’s just more of the same? So far, I’m not convinced it isn’t.
The following two are the other singles from the album. As I have stated previously, I didn’t enjoy these too much when they were first released. The first is one of the now token 2000s Chilis slow songs, Kiedis singing over a piano and simple drums, Flea and John playing basic or ambient stuff in the background. It’s not bad, but it’s no ‘Slow Cheetah’ or ‘I Could Die For You’. Meanwhile ‘Poster Child’ is straight out the late 90s, Kiedis rapping complete nonsense over simple, steady instrumentation. It’s my second favourite track on the album so far, but that’s not saying a great deal. The chorus is pretty nothing but the vocal melody for the verses is fun and catchy.
Are you ready for the second slow song yet? RHCP sure seem to think so! ‘The Great Apes’ at least has a slightly better chorus than ‘Not the One’, but outside of that it shares a lot of similarities. There’s bits of cool instrumentation from the guitars, but outside of that not a great deal stood out to me here. I thought about trying to be funny and copy and pasting this paragraph almost word for word for the following track, ‘It’s Only Natural’, but ultimately decided against it. However, it is another dully slow track, with not much redeeming about it outside a fun vocal line or two. 7/17 in and so far, very meh.
‘She’s a Lover’ is another slower one, but at least it has a bit of funk to it. Then we get a song that finally catches my ear again, ‘These Are the Ways’. Is it up there with some of the best RHCP songs ever? Hell no. But it’s a fun song with some actual dynamics to it, which for this album is rare. It’s slow, quite verses before ramping up into a rockier chorus, big guitars, cymbal-heavy drums and some damn catchy vocals. It’s a change of pace that this album definitely needed, which is probably the only reason why I’m enjoying it so far. That and it’s got almost a heavy outro, which was nice. Still, it was good, so makes the playlist!
Aaaaand the rock is gone again almost immediately. ‘Whatchu Thinkin’’ has a fun chorus and ‘Bastards of Light’ has a great bridge part that’s heavy and distorted and honestly awesome. I loved both bits, but the rest of the songs around them were that dull and slow that I couldn’t sit through them just for that. Damn, I wish RHCP were still a rock band.
I hate to say it, but the final six tracks bored the hell out of me. At one point I didn’t even realise it had moved onto the next song, that’s how similar it all sounds. 26-minutes of similar, slow, calm music. Some people might like that and love this band, but this is not at all what I was hoping for. It doesn’t really sound at all like the band that I got into in my childhood, so while it may be musically good, I simply can’t enjoy it given what they have evolved to. God, I feel old typing that! There were some glimmers of hope here, but overall it wasn’t enjoyable. It’s a real shame.
The Score: 3.5/10
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