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Friday, August 26, 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers: I'm With You (Release Date: 8-30-2011)

        I'll never forget seeing Bob Dylan live. It was about Five years ago now, and the night previous, I had had the sublime pleasure of seeing a Sufjan Stevens show from the Illinoise tour. Stevens was in his late 20's at the time, experiencing what still stands as the prime of his career. Dylan, however, who played in front of a nearly-sold-out Memorial Colosseum in Portland, Oregon, was largely indecipherable. On more than a few occasions, the man almost seemed to be doing a parody of himself, and not once in the whole show did he so much as lay a finger on a guitar. At One point during the performance, my friend leaned over to me and whispered, "This is why rock stars die young."

        The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their first album in 1984. That's 27 years ago. It's certainly commendable that they've managed to stay relevant and popular for that long, but the strain of a band finally slowing down is just about undeniable. The former Tube Sock enthusiasts have waited Five years to follow up 2006's Stadium Arcadium, an album that itself ended a Four year gap (2002's By the Way). During the most recent hiatus, long-time guitarist John Frusciante finally vacated the band, opening his slot up to 31-year-old Josh Klinghoffer. And while losing a guitarist is always pretty bad news, the band could likely benefit from the infusion of some younger blood, considering the ages of Bassist Flea (48), Vocalist Anthony Kiedis (48), and Drummer Chad Smith (49).

        And while I feel quite certain that such a change-up might help out live shows, the band's newest album, I'm With You, is another story. It's not a particularly bad album; It is, rather, a disc in crisis. On One hand, the band is playing to all of their old, familiar strengths, lead-single The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie all funky bass grooves, and Kiedis' standard rat-tat-tat-tat lyrical cadence. Ethiopia and Look Around also follow this trajectory, but all of these tunes simply sound out-dated, not sonically up-to-the-minute enough to compel in a modern context, not aged enough to glisten with retro-sheen. Even the album cover and the unending 14-song track list already seem like relics of a forgotten era.

        On the other hand, the band's attempts at reaching for new ground, such as disco-infused opener Monarchy of Roses, or the positively putrid faux-lounge sing-a-long Even You, Brutus?, feel both under-developed and forced. As previously stated, there are some stand-out moments, but I cannot, in good conscious, offer you a single good reason to acquire this album if you already have Blood, Sex Sugar, Magik and Californiacation (and if you're reading this, I'm going to bet that you do). I'm With You is pretty much the exact album that you would expect the Red Hot Chili Peppers to make at the age of 50. I'd save my money.

Grade: D+

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