Red Hot Chili Peppers release subtle, expressive album, The Getaway
After a lengthy hiatus, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have returned with their long-awaited 11th studio album, The Getaway. This is the band’s second album, third if counting the 2013 B-side collection I’m Beside You, as a main album.
The album features the current lineup including Josh Klinghoffer on guitar. Just like their previous album, I’m With You, the new album marks another radical change in the band’s history.
For the first time since signing onto Warner Bros. Records over 25 years ago, the band has opted to record the album without their longtime producer Rick Rubin manning the board. Similar to when long-running guitarist John Frusciante left the band for the second and final time in 2009, Rubin’s departure brought about a major change in the band.
While Frusciante established the guitar blueprint, Rubin’s production, arrangement and engineering skills helped turn the Red Hot Chili Peppers from a ragtag cult band into an international phenomenon that headlines stadiums and festivals all over the world. While the last few albums were of a good quality, the band came off as though they were playing on auto pilot.
Filling Rubin’s shoes is Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, a producer who first gained international attention when he fused together Jay-Z and The Beatles with 2004’s The Grey Album. Compared to the last six records Rubin produced, Danger Mouse has a much more prominent hand in the overall songwriting of the album, receiving a co-writing credit on five of the 13 tracks. He even plays on some of the songs. Contributing organ, synthesizers and Mellotron, Burton further expands the role of keyboards in the band’s trademark funk sound.
Behind the control board, Danger Mouse decided to smoothen out the band’s rough funk musical image that Rubin emphasized during his tenure with the band. While all the funk jam elements that define the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still here and accounted for, Danger Mouse has married the band’s funk-metal roots with his own psychedelia-inspired sensibilities.
This is especially evident in “Feasting on the Flowers,” and “The Hunter,” two of his co-written songs. With its very noticeable “trip-hop” influences scattered all around, one could take the songs as remnants of his Broken Bells sessions.
The next big change for the album comes in the form of guitarist Klinghoffer. The band’s previous album, I’m With You, tasked him with the challenge of following the footsteps of beloved Frusciante. As a result, his playing seemed to be relegated to the background in favor of Anthony Kiedis’ frenetic rapping and Flea’s trademark bass slapping.
Since Klinghoffer has worked with Danger Mouse several times prior to joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he was brought more into the songwriting fold, managing to stand out in the band.
While Danger Mouse brought about a few changes in the band, many of the classic elements remain untouched. In spite of the new musical tapestry, Kiedis’ lyrics are still as cathartic and irreverent as they have ever been. Subject matter varies from serious topics, like his deeply troubled personal life, to even ludicrous themes.
Some bits of social commentary are weaved into the album such as the Donald Trump-inspired satire “We Turn Red,” and the devastating “Goodbye Angels,” which handles the topic of suicide and society’s way of handling it. Moments like that are balanced by songs with more humorous and upbeat themes.
Songs like “Go Robot,” which has Kiedis talking about mechanized sex and “Detroit,” an ode to the Motor City and few of its well-known artists, show a noticeable difference from the band’s usual shtick of writing about California. While the lyrics themselves are not horrible, they completely juxtapose the more elaborate production of the album for which Danger Mouse was aiming.
Finally, there is the most important element of any album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers—their trademark funk rock sound. Even with the added aura of musical restraint brought about by a new producer, the highly intense mixture of speedy rapping, semi-bluesy guitar and a rapid fire rhythm section is still here and accounted for and is just as potent as it has ever been.
The subdued opening track carries a lot of influence from modern pop artists, like HAIM, and is defined by muted guitar tones from Klinghoffer. “Encore,” is probably one of the calmest songs that the Chili Peppers have put out in years, in which Chad Smith’s percussion does not advance more than mere handclaps and a kick drum.
Without a doubt, the strangest song of them all is “Sick Love.” Aside from the aforementioned co-writing credits with Danger Mouse, this song is the only other track to feature the band collaborating with outside writers. In this case, the legendary songwriting duo of Bernie Taupin and Sir Elton John play piano for the track. Musically speaking, it comes off as a surreal, but ultimately catchy, reggae reimagining of “Bennie and the Jets.”
While one chapter of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ history has come to a close, a new one has opened with The Getaway, and the musical future of the band looks promising.
One can only hope that the band and its new producer continue this new pseudo-psychedelic direction for however many albums that the two make together.