ALBUM: Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Release Date: August 29th, 2011
Label: Warner Bros. Records


After the lukewarm reception of ‘Stadium Arcadium’ 5 years ago, there’s quite a lot riding on the success of RHCP‘s latest album ‘I’m With You’. After a number of internal issues within the band and the loss of guitarist John Frusciante, it would be reasonable to expect the band’s sound to suffer as a result. It is surprising then, that ‘I’m With You’ far surpasses expectation, and stands as one of the band’s best releases to date.

That isn’t to say that the album is without low points however. Openers ‘Monarchy Of Roses’ and ‘Factory Of Faith’ are a little toothless and forgettable. Fortunately the bar is quickly raised with ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ and the fantastic ‘Ethiopia’. The former of the two has one of the most hummable choruses on the album, while the latter ‘Ethiopia’ oozes the up-tempo funk that RHCP are known for.

‘Annie Wants A Baby’ represents an amicable meeting point between the Chili‘s serious style, that was all too abundant on the unwieldy ‘Stadium Arcadium’, with a sparse but enjoyable melody and chorus. This creates a great contrast with the next track, ‘Look Around’. Impossible not to bop to, Anthony Keidis leads the funk stomp: “Hustle me here, hustle me there / Hustle me bitch and you best beware”. Clearly he has lost none of his attitude, and although Josh Klinghoffer doesn’t quite have the presence of John Frusciante on record, his more robust playing style really shines on tracks like these.

Next is ‘The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie’, the lead single, which neatly encompasses the tone of the album. The band have clearly matured through their trials over the last few years, but with Flea‘s unmistakable bass groove weaving through, there is always a sense of playfulness and adolescent charm beneath the mature front. ‘Did I Let You Know’ is wonderfully laid back, a sound drenched in California sun. The drums are crisp and tight, the guitar clean to contrast with the rasp of the trumpet in the bridge. It’s well put together and highly enjoyable. The pace doesn’t let up, with the explosive ‘Goodbye Hooray’. It demonstrates that although RHCP tend to favour a mellower sound these days, they still have what it takes to kick out the jams and rock out.

Compared to the last few tracks, ‘Happiness Loves Company’ feels weak. At 14 tracks long, the band could easily have cut this so-so song from the album. It feels like filler, and it breaks the momentum. ‘Even You, Brutus?’ signals the final stretch, opening with an eerie intro unlike anything the band have produced before. This is mostly thanks to Klinghoffer‘s taste in unusual guitar sounds and atmospherics. This leads to a raucous chorus, Anthony delivering an impassioned sermon, once again demonstrating his rambunctious attitude. ‘Meet Me At The Corner’ comes closest to the melancholy of the ‘Stadium Arcadium’ days. But, unlike their sound five years ago, there is most definitely a background haze of hope in the noise, an uplifting tone that isn’t so much played through the instruments but rather emanated from a band refreshed.

Like the closers to many RHCP albums before it, ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ serves the purpose to wind the listener down. Mid-tempo and aurally inoffensive, it isn’t the most exciting sound on offer, but its funk-infused refrains and soothing choruses certainly help to round ‘I’m With You’ off on a peaceful high.

‘I’m With You’ is a triumphant return to form for RHCP. With the struggles within the band and a disappointing double album behind them, they sound rejuvenated here. Their sound has returned to the colourful and distinctive noise found on ‘Californication’ and ‘By The Way’, but with an unmistakable air of maturity that serves to enhance this latest batch of songs.

Written by Grant Bailey