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Long awaited Red Hot Chili Peppers album fails to impress

September 8th, 2011

A lot has changed for the Red Hot Chili Peppers since they released their lengthy double-LP Stadium Arcadium in 2006. They’re five years older, many of them have moved on to side projects, and they have once again had to replace their lead guitarist. Despite this, “I’m With You” does not attempt to venture into new territory, and delivers the same funky, psychedelic sound we’ve come to expect from the band.

Josh Klinghoffer, a former tour understudy for the band, has been promoted to the band’s eighth (yes, eighth) lead axe man. He fits in nicely with the band and lets the rest of them do their thing, which is mid-tempo funk pop rock songs.

“I’m With You” opens strongly with “Monarchy of Roses,” an energetic tune with plenty of attitude.  Effects distort Anthony Kiedis’s commanding vocals during the verse, and Flea dominates the chorus with a sharp disco-rock bass riff. Flea maintains this style for most of the album, probably influenced by his side project “Atoms for Peace” with dance-happy Thom Yorke.

“Brendan’s Death Song” is a rare somber ballad from these party planners. “I’m almost dead, I’m almost gone,” sings Kiedis before Klinghoffer breaks out the power cords and Flea and drummer Chad Smith finally get a chance to let loose with refreshing results.

On “Did I Let You Know,” they change things up with a mariachi-like horn section that can’t help but put a smile on your face and get you tapping your feet. A cheery piano and thumping percussion makes “Happiness Loves Company” stand out with the stronger tracks of the record.

Like its title, the song is pure happiness and the feeling is contagious. “Make time for love and your happiness,” Kiedis sings, “we all know and struggle with some loneliness.” The track is warm and welcoming, and tells the listener that we’re all in this together.

Unfortunately, these songs are counter-balanced by a large number of boring and lazy ones.

The album’s first single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” is stupid. The lyrics do not make sense and the verse is extremely boring.

The chorus would be OK, if it wasn’t the same chorus rearranged and used for more than half of the other songs on the album.

It’s a formula that works, but it makes listening to the album in one sitting a mind-numbingly dull affair.

Kiedis’s song writing abilities don’t get much better. In the gag-inducing “Look Around,” he sings about falling in love with a stripper.

In “Police Station,” he laments about a friend who has taken the wrong path in life. It’s all so corny it’s almost a relief when Kiedis abandons words for an embarrassingly simple scat in “Ethiopia.”

At least the album ends on a high note. “Dance Dance Dance” successfully makes you want to do just that. It’s an accessible tune that should have been the first single.

“I’m With You” is at the same time, both familiar and frustratingly stale. Even though the world has changed, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still the same. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing.