I’m With You is the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 10th album and their first for five years. This is also their first album with their new guitarist Josh Kinghoffer. John Frusciante’s guitar playing has long characterized the band’s sound; anyone listening to the Chilis for the first time around the release of Stadium Arcadium would likely have been drawn in by the deep, soulful guitar riffs and Frusciante’s raw energy. With Frusciante gone – for a second time, as it happens; he left the band before, then to be replaced by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for One Hot Minute – how fare the Chilis shorn of the powerful musical talents of the band’s most celebrated guitarist?
For anyone unfamiliar with Kinghoffer’s guitar playing, this album sets about reassuring devotees that the band is still the powerful funk-rock group it’s always been. It’s true that since By The Way the band has taken a different route with their music, deviating even further away from their punk roots that are the hallmarks of the eponymous Red Hot Chili Peppers and Freaky Styley albums, but their music maintains a powerful presence with Flea’s funky bass lines and Anthony Kiedis’ distinctive vocals.
The album begins with the grandiose Monarchy Of Roses. The song is heavy, loud and raw, cut with a suddenly fluid chorus that recalls whole songs from Stadium Arcadium, as if to declare it’s business as usual. As on their previous effort, there is also song dedicated to the death of a friend, Brendan’s Death Song. This song strikes a necessarily different tone from what went before, changing the tone to mournful, yet an element of celebration remains in the song, no matter how morbid the subject matter. The band seems to be playing to celebrate the life of Brendan.
From then on many of the tracks follow on from the example set by Brendan’s Death Song, in celebration of life and with a generally upbeat feel. From the lively atmosphere of Ethiopia to the energetic The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie and Goodbye Hooray, the album sets about getting its funk on.
It plays out with the therapeutic and consoling Dance, Dance, Dance, which urges listeners to “Give yourself a chance to find a way” and, obviously, “Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance all night long”. The song, not unlike the entire album, conveys a nod in the directions of spirituality and wholeness, and provides the perfect note to go out on.
The Chilis, on this evidence, haven’t lost what won them so many fans in the days of Californication and By The Way, but they do have a new direction in mind. Klinghoffer wisely makes no attempt to mimic Frusciante; the new boy on the block’s musical talent is obvious in its own right here, and the musical partnership that has formed between the older members of the band and Klinghoffer is evident. Red Hot Chili Peppers are not quite ready to slope off the scene yet.