Music Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Loud Feedback Music Review: The Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway Album Cover

Red Hot Chili Peppers Mellow Out And Adjust With The Times On The Getaway

By Jeff Feuerhaken

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been half a decade since the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their last album, 2011’s I’m With You. As with many bands entering the twilight of their careers, RCHP has become less prolific with age, and as a result more weight is placed on each new release. I’m With You was a landmark album due to it being the first to feature guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who had replaced longtime Pepper John Frusciante. The most noteworthy aspect of The Getaway, however, is that it’s the band’s first album since 1989’s Mother’s Milk to be produced by someone not named Rick Rubin. Taking over for Rubin as RHCP producer is none other than Danger Mouse himself, Brian Burton. So armed with a new producer, a sophomore guitarist, and five years of downtime, what type of dish were the Peppers able to cook up with The Getaway?

The answer, simply, is a polarizing one. This album, perhaps more than any other Red Hot Chili Peppers album that has come before it, is a departure. The band’s onetime signature (fun)ky approach to songwriting is curiously absent. The trademark intensity in Anthony Kiedis’ vocal delivery has gone fishin’. The uptempo grooves that characterized the band’s early career belongs on the back of a milk carton, because it’s nowhere to be found. And of course the production is less punchy with the absence of Rubin. What has stepped in to take the place of these missing elements are lots and lots of pianos and keyboards, a very toned-down and mellow Kiedis rap delivery, and an overall jazzier feel, more in the vein of something like Maroon 5 than the Chili Peppers. For some, hearing this might paint The Getaway in a negative light, but it does seem as if the listeners either love it or hate it. Personally, I actually find myself a little more in the middle, but maybe leaning a little towards the latter.

Listening to The Getaway, what I sense is that as southern California’s musical ambassadors, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are feeling forced to maintain relevancy by keeping their collective fingers on the pulse of current popular music in the California scene, even as tastes drift further and further away from what the styles the Peppers’ reign has been built upon. In a way it’s kind of sad. The Chili Peppers have decided to become less Chili Peppers-y just to fit in with the new, cool kids. That said, there are certainly some positives to take away, as well. Whereas guitarist Kinghoffer’s role on I’m With You was reduced primarily to textural accompaniment, some songs on The Getaway, such as “This Ticonderoga” and “We Turn Red”, put the guitar front and center in the Frusciante role, as it were. And despite an overabundance of all too familiar sounding vocal patterns throughout the album, there are some rather good melodic moments, such as the bridge on the surf-inspired track, “The Longest Wave”, and the breakdown and outro of “Goodbye Angels”.

Anthony Kiedis: One of the cool kids.

Anthony Kiedis: One of the cool kids.

It’s great that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still at it after all these years, but it’s hard to argue that they’ve mellowed into tame and uncharacteristically safe musical territory in The Getaway. Watching the music video for the album’s premiere single “Dark Necessities” (directed by actress Olivia Wilde!), the juxtaposition of the imagery of the band rocking the f out and the undeniably chill atmosphere of the music made it clear there’s some kind of disconnect going on here. The Red Hot Chili Peppers want to maintain their legacy of unleashed craziness and manic energy, but their music insists they also want to stay relevant and mellow out. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they can have it both ways. It feels somehow disingenuous. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with The Getaway, and it just may be the perfect album for a slightly laid back California summer mood, but when compared to the entirely of the band’s catalog, I have to argue that it ultimately lies among the group’s weakest.

Score: 4/8 stars

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