Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "I'm With You"

I wrote a review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers latest album and submitted it to Concord University's student newspaper, The Concordian. I had planned on writing about the album more in-depth here in my blog, but decided to send it in instead. Never pass up an opportunity to get your name out there in print, if you can.

As you can see from my byline, the album received a rating of 8 out of 10. I don't know where that came from, as I didn't send in a numerical rating. I guess they thought that from the tone of my words that I thought the album was 80 percent good. I'll go with it.

"Guest Writer" is the eighth title I have had beside my name in The Concordian newspaper over the years. I started as a Staff Writer and eventually became Editor-in-Chief, holding just about every other title in between.

If anybody else wants to submit an article or letter to the editor, email it to concordian[at] for consideration. The paper is printed every Wednesday, but for deadline purposes try to have it sent in by the weekend before the print deadline.

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with their first album in six years. Released August 26, and debuting at number two on the Billboard Charts, I'm With You can best be described as the Chili Peppers you remember, but just a little different.

The familiar sound is there, but the difference comes from new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who joined lead singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith after long-time guitarist John Frusciante left in 2009.

Klinghoffer is not as experimental as Frusciante, and thus his guitar blends in more as opposed to taking over, as was the case with RHCP’s last album Stadium Arcadium.

Buzz for the 14-track album has come from their interestingly-titled lead single "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie." What's the song about? With lyrics like "I want to rock you like the 80s," "Who said three is a crowd?" and, if you listen to the edited radio version, "[long pause] blocking isn't allowed," you can kind of get the idea.

The aforementioned blocking is the only direct reference to genitalia on the album. Indirect references abound, though. A RHCP song is usually about either sex or drugs, or sometimes sex and drugs. That theme continues on I'm With You, although with a slightly more mature outlook. Gone are the days of releasing a song called "Party on Your Pussy," which they did in 1987. Now they keep it a little more discreet, with lyrics like "I can't resist the smell of your seduction" on "Did I Let You Know."

On a serious note, the theme of maturity is there on other songs. With two band members in their late 40's and one in his early 50's, after a lifestyle of hard living, the themes of death and redemption are evident on songs like "Monarchy of Roses," "Brendan's Death Song," and "Meet Me At the Corner."

"Brendan's Death Song," in particular, is one of the strongest songs on the album. It's stripped down, musically and vocally, and shows the rawness of Kiedis' voice.

The piano has never been an instrument of choice for RHCP, but that changes on this album. "Happiness Loves Company," the best track on I'm With You, features an upbeat, fast piano track.

In his autobiography, Kiedis writes that he initially started rapping because he couldn’t sing well. Over the years, he learned how to sing better and his trademark rap skills took a backseat. He goes back to what brought him to the game on the track "Even You Brutus?" as he raps about a girl who breaks his heart. The lyrics are pretty sophomoric ("She was the cutest thing that I ever did see/Drink in her hand and I don't mean tea"), but if you like old-school RHCP, this song is for you.

I'm With You is a solid album, one you could almost consider to be a debut album for the "New" Red Hot Chili Peppers. They are a little older, a little more mature, but the sound is unmistakably Chili Pepper-esque, but with a new twist.

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