It has been nearly five years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers released ‘I’m With You’, the bands first album to feature Josh Klinghoffer on guitar. This means that it has also been five years in which the band has been able to develop a creative rapport with the new guitarist after the abrupt departure of veteran guitarist and fan favourite John Frusciante. The new line up’s inaugural record, while producing some quality tracks, ultimately suffered from a sense of inconsistency most likely caused by the sudden switch in personnel and the creative purgatory this entailed.
With ‘The Getaway’, the band appears to be more at ease with the new dynamic within the group. Things are different now. Not too different mind you, but different enough to part ways with Rick Rubin, the renowned producer behind many of the bands most popular albums, and to tag in Danger Mouse in order to shake up their sound and vibe. The results are generally positive, consistent and fairly indicative of where the Chili Peppers have been moving towards musically for the last 10 years.
The music is a bit softer around the edges, a little less rugged. This is no doubt a reflection of how the band has matured over the years. Nowhere is this more evident than in tracks such as The Longest Wave where Anthony Kiedis sings about a breakup. After a smooth guitar intro from Klinghoffer is provided Kiedis begins almost in a nursery rhyme before ultimately breaking out into some reassuring fatalism in the chorus “Maybe I’m your last love/maybe I’m your first/just another way to play inside the universe/ now I know why we came”.
Title track The Getaway begins with some verbal hi-hatting and develops into an atmospheric ballad stripped of any need for ostentation. Here, as well as tracks such as lead single Dark Necessities and Go Robot, Klinghoffer appears content operating under a less-is-more approach, casually going with the groove without needing to provide any excess or over-zealous guitar work. The album as a whole plays to this dynamic between Klinghoffer on one side and Flea and Chad Smith on the other side, leaning more heavily on the groove and fostering a more atmospheric sound. The further integration of piano into the music is also welcome on tracks such as Encore and The Hunter.
Death of a Samurai is arguably among the most interesting songs ever produced by the band, with many unusual sounds and qualities not found in their other material. Elsewhere Go Robot resurrects some old school disco-funk-techno as Kiedis pleads to let him “plug it in”. Catchy as the song is, the less said about Kiedis’s apparent techno fetish the better. Some songs are more memorable than others but tracks such as the irresistible Dark Necessities, with its popping bassline from Flea and overall smooth, seductive quality, are sufficient to quell any fears that the Chili Peppers will turn into a parody of themselves anytime soon. There remains an ardent creative spark pushing them in new(-ish) directions.
It appears that the group has settled on a sound for the latest line-up, after going through a more experimental phase with ‘I’m With You’. The songwriting is more confident and has been tweaked in order to accommodate the new dynamic within the group. While fans may lament the loss of Frusciante and denigrate the new material for its style, the fact is that the band would probably have moved in this direction with or without him. The Getaway offers just enough innovation and quality to validate their chosen direction.