I’m With You, the tenth album by American supergroup Red Hot Chili Peppers, was touted as the big come back of the band. The Peppers have been on a hiatus since 2006, after their world tour promoting the two-disc meg-hit Stadium Arcadium.
In that time, they’ve had babies, released solo projects, produced albums for other artists, gotten university degrees, and lost their guitarist.
John Frusciante left the band in those few years, opting to settle down and work on a variety of solo projects. And it’s for that reason that I’m With You starts at a slight disadvantage. Without Frusciante, whose hooks and solos have become nothing short of legendary, it’s hard to imagine a new Peppers album, let alone a come back record.
Did they do it? It’s tough to say.
On one hand, the album is filled with familiar tunes: the tracks sound like the Chili Peppers. Only, they sound so much like the Peppers’ traditional, funk-and-R&B music that they could be B-sides to any other record. It’s just not quite enough to warrant a comeback; but maybe that’s not what the Peppers are after.
There are several gems on I’m With You, including ‘Happiness Loves Company’, a feel-good march. Opening with a bluesy, almost vaudevillian, piano before breaking into drums, then bass and guitar, ‘Happiness Loves Company’ showcases some of Kiedis’ best vocals – his trademark fast-lipped lyrics are paired with his long-and-high belts.
The track is light, airy, and fun, and it has a solid message, too: “Make time for love and your happiness / The mothers of invention are the best / We all know and struggle with some loneliness / A tender mess for everyone, I guess.”
‘Even You Brutus?’ is a dark, rainy song that sees Kiedis rap about the betrayal of a woman. The piano gives the tune its ghastly richness, while the electric guitar compliments, adding the rock muscle of the song.
Meanwhile, the lyrics play on the betrayal of Brutus (betrayed the title character in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) and Judas (who betrayed Jesus Christ), while referencing a seemingly perfect woman.
Written for Brendan Mullen, founder of The Masque, a small punk club in California, who suffered a sudden stroke and passed away in 2009, ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ is a beautiful tribute to the band’s late friend. A drum heavy track, the song has a courageous, yet scary, heavy, yet light, feel to it – a sense of peace, even with something as painful as death.
It opens with an acoustic guitar, and Kiedis singing, “If I die before I get it done / Will you decide / Take my words and turn them / Into signs that will survive.”
As the track goes on, bass, electric guitar, and finally echoing drums are added. A beautiful tribute, ‘Brendan’s Death Song’ builds into a strong and vibrant cacophony, before dimming out into a lofty hum.
Still, the best part of the Peppers’ album is that it’s a Peppers album. Overall, it’s just different enough to be new, but not so different that fans would not receive it well.
Would we call it spectacular?
Would we call it a fantastic Peppers record?
Is there any other kind?