Bass-Gods and Uninspired Poets, The Rest is Transient
After arm breaks, stomach incidents, hospitalizations and the like, Red Hot Chili Peppers have produced their 11th album, The Getaway. This album comes a whopping five years after the last serious release and, for this adventure, they have teamed up with the infamous Danger Mouse, repeated producer of the year and musician, instead of Rick Rubin, their mainstay producer since the well known Blood Sugar Sex Magik. This sort of departure may be a bit apparent in their shift in sound: for a band that is known to bring the funk to rock and metal, the album comes sauntering in more funk heavy than normally expected and in spite of the heavy promo, radio play has been fairly low key, save for Sirius Radio spots.
“The Getaway,” title track, is full of nostalgic guitar picking accentry provided by Josh Klinghoffer, and a relatively subtle bass-line from bass-god Flea, starts off the album with soulful singing from Kiedis about, “Another lonely superstar/ To get away inside your car.” Fading into “Dark Necessities,” Flea really kicks it up a notch with a slick, though still relatively sober slap-line. We get treated to a bit more familiar RHCP feel in this song, with a bouncy vocal melody, but with the addition of intriguing piano and some other various strings. While coming down from the excitement of “Dark Necessities,” we are immediately let down hard by “We Turn Red” who’s choppy rhythm and taciturn, piecey lyrics does eventually come together is a sort of angelic chorus, but always returns to that same choppy-repetitive verse rhythm. It’s a jarring song to say the least. Kiedis sings, “Mexico, you are my neighbor/ Home of the let’s be braver/ Give me all your sick and your tired/ Races that we admire/ Do you want to go dancing in Chicago?/ Trinidad’s got it bad for Tobago/ Take me to the lake where we do the Avocado/ Hallelujah, a desperado.” Written out, they look like highly interesting, fun lyrics, but within “We Turn Red,” it’s hard not to see a sort of RHCP formulaic checklist in your head. Mention a few locations (preferably squirm California in there somewhere), insert a quotable line from somewhere that works, word of praise here, and then some obtuse word or line that people will latch on to.
“The Longest Wave” is sort of soft, poppy, and spacey. While lyrics wax slightly melancholy, it’s a nice reprieve from the earlier tracks. “Goodbye Angels,” however, is the hottest track, starting with speeding up guitar and building drums, crashing into an excellent chorus jam collision for all the instruments. There is a nigh loveable inclusion of a bit of repetitive synth-work within this song that starts on verse two, which actually takes the track up a notch, but what really is exciting is the end: the song breaks to Flea tapping out a sick bass-solo, which disperses into a high pitched complimentary guitar melody before they both crash in together, ending the song on an excellent, goose-bump ridden jam. On “Sick Love,” Elton John makes a piano appearance and though subtle, it’s hard to mistake it for anyone else. The whole song could be an Elton John jam. “Go Robot” is a musically interesting track, until the sudden violation and intrusion of some 80s esque synth. Admittedly, it goes with the title of the song, however, synth echoes are kind of irritating when you’re finding the groove of the song, like a building migraine that’s just hovering underneath your brain. Lyrically, the song is a little boring and ignorant, with a chorus of, “Tell me now, I know that it just won’t stop/ You will find your flow when you go robot/ I want to thank you and spank you upon your silver skin/ Robots don’t care where I’ve been/ You’ve got to choose it to use it, so let me plug it in/ Robots are my next of kin.” These sound more like Lady GaGa than Kiedis and make this song some obligatory dance track. “Feasting on the Flowers” is yet another sort of jarring song, sounding like the listener may have accidentally entered a happy, sappy musical suddenly. Thankfully, it ends just as suddenly as it starts. This leads into our expectedly-city-titled song, “Detroit,” which has a fantastically grinding rhythm, and, despite a slightly weak verse melody, it picks up in the pre-chorus and chorus with stronger and highly chantable lyrics of, “Don’t you worry baby/ I’m like, Detroit I’m Crazy.” Toward the end, there is an interesting addition of some backing, over processed vocals with Kiedis’, repeating the “Detroit I’m Crazy” line.
“This Ticonderoga” is a bit of a disappointment, with an excessively repetitive guitar-line, but is thankfully saved by the follow-up “Encore,” which has a nostalgic air and an upbeat chorus melody, calling to mind long car drives along scenic ocean drives. It seamlessly folds into “The Hunter,” which though a pretty easygoing and enjoyable song, feels highly out of place for the band. Some of the lyrics are even a strange within the song, leaving the listener a little confused as to the significance of lines like “Strawberries left to decay.” A redeemable part of the song is Flea’s trumpet playing, which is always is a pleasure. The final song on the album, “Dreams of a Samurai, “returns to a funk feel, but has such abstract lyrics it’s again hard to follow.
While one cannot discount how wonderfully exciting it is to hear Flea playing bass and trumpet on any given day, it does not make up for the general mediocrity of the album. There are gems among the tracks to be sure, but most of the time the lyrics are somewhat lazy and predictable, which is a huge let down from Kiedis’ usual poetic style, while Klinghoffer’s guitar remains subdued and somewhat unimpressive in most cases. It just rolls over the listener with a general meh feeling. Some die-hard RHCP fans will tend to disagree, but for those who explicitly hear “By The Way,” “Californication,” and “Can’t Stop” on the radio and call that their RHCP experience, it will be a bit unsettling to adjust to.