As anybody does with anything after six months or so, I’ve grown entirely bored of the format of these posts. Spitting out a dozen micro-reviews is occasionally very fun, but I need a break. My put-downs are becoming too same-y and there are only so many ways that I can use the words “horse shit” in a sentence.
This week, I’m going to take a more extensive look at a new release. Oh boy. Look what just came out…
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS – THE GETAWAY
The Red Hot Chili Peppers – for whatever reason – have enjoyed a surprisingly consistent amount of success, given that they’re essentially a novelty act that sprung out of a scene that produced better bands who are basically unknown on a mainstream level. I remember being most charmed by them when I was 11, upon the release of Weird Al Yankovic’s seminal Alapalooza record. His riff on “Under The Bridge” and “Giveitaway” was an absolute delight! And still is!
I suppose this highlights one of my major problems with this group. Their funky, bee-bop-a-doo-bow sound actually works pretty well… for kids. It is goofy and silly. The rhymes are elementary and simple. Problem is, the rhymes are invariably about drugs and fucking. Decidedly not for kids. So, sidebar statement that is perhaps more important than anything else in this review: The best RHCP song is actually a Weird Al song, and I will stand behind this statement until the day I die.
Now. The Getaway. What does a RHCP album sound like in 2016?
Well, it certainly begins with the words “That’s right. You’re Right. We will do our thing tonight. Alright.” The stage is set for Anthony Kiedis to deliver 55 minutes worth of third-grade level poetry with zero vocal range.
The album itself, produced by Danger Mouse is ostensibly a stab at modernizing and neu-sexifying the Peppermen’s sound. The results are mixed. Up front, it needs to be mentioned that the record sounds strong in terms of production. The drums sound crisp and punchy. Honestly, I’m not sure that Chad Smith/Will Ferrell has ever sounded better. Not that he’s given much to do. The Getaway is a strikingly low-energy affair.
Say what you wish to about the Chili-willies’ early output – and lord knows, I’ve said some things – it was generally spunky. This new record is just bummer after bummer. There are a scant few times that the album pumps itself up – one being a pretty inspired outro involving some super-aggressive fuzzed-out bass guitar. Honestly – putting my distaste for funk and slap bass aside – Flea sounds reasonably good on this record.
Come to think of it, the guitar work isn’t all that terrible, either. Semi-newcomer Josh Klinghoffer has really managed to ape the work of earlier Peppy-Pep-Pep guitarists, coming up with some lines that manage to simultaenously rip off and rival John Frusciante’s better work. The guitar intro/outro for “The Longest Wave” sounds authentically Chili-ish and is played very nicely.
I’ve found a few moments of mild enjoyment while listening to this album, and these moments have a pretty stark through-line: They are 100% instrumental sections. The band sounds to be in reasonable – if sluggish – form, and seem to work into Danger Mouse’s production style to varying degrees of success. Anthony Kiedis’ vocal work is invariably awful.
It may sound fairly harsh to call Kiedis the worst living lyricist and vocalist. A pretty grand statement, actually. But I honestly can’t think of anyone worse. He can scarcely carry a (very simple) tune, and his delivery of the non-melodic “funk-hop” sections lacks charisma, precision and content that begins to approach compelling. Particularly given the subdued nature of most of this material, his unwavering choice to land on each and every beat – his signature “flow” – creates a completely monotonous listening experience. When the band actually sounds like they’re moving into territory that might hold some melodic interest, Kiedis climbs on top of everything and drags it back into his own extremely limited range. It’s sad.
There isn’t much to love about this record beyond the way that it sounds. “Encore” offers a great sounding string section that only serves to accent how tired the chord progression and melody of the track are. “Go Robot” presents a fairly stark ripoff of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, were it arranged by musicians with far less discipline. “Dark Necessities”, the lead single, is the most succinct presentation of evidence that points to Kiedis being the band’s most glaring problem. Album closer “Dreams of a Samurai” a sprawling and nonsensical attempt at something epic.
This album – this band, really – was never going to be for me. I do feel, though, that listening to this record has prompted me to think about the band differently. Now I just really feel bad that a bunch of these guys have been saddled with such a lousy frontman for so long. It’s one thing to be the talentless guy onstage when you’re in a young band, careening wild and shirtless and strung out on heroin on the SNL stage. Your youth and energy will make up for the fact that you can’t write or sing. Once you’re in your 50s?
Folks want to get to a show, sit in a chair, and listen to some tunes performed by folks who can carry them.
Preferably folks wearing shirts.