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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Album review: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ The Getaway is a departure from their usual fare

While lacking the punch and hook of their heyday material, a new maturity marks The Gateway as the Chili's most satisfying release in a decade.
From left, Michael Balzary, also known as ‘Flea’, Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis and Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival in California. Getty Images
From left, Michael Balzary, also known as ‘Flea’, Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis and Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival in California. Getty Images

The Getaway

Red Hot Chili Peppers

(Warner Brothers)

Three stars

The charge sheet regularly levelled at the Red Hot Chili Peppers is long and colourful. Detractors point to their shamelessly misogynistic surf-jock swagger, brain-dead funk-rock riffing and uber-indulgent, noodle-centric live shows with inexplicable vitriol.

Yet the Chilis – whose inability to spell is the bugbear of subeditors the world over – endure as one of the world’s most popular live draws, selling out stadiums with reliability.

So the question is – in 2016, after surviving 30-odd years, four drummers and eight guitarists – does anyone really need another Red Hot Chili Peppers album?

The band appears to approach the issue with hesitation: The Getaway marks their first new release in a half-decade and is only their fourth LP this side of the millennium.

At this point in the game, one might rightly expect the 11th album to be little more than a phoned-in excuse for another lucrative world tour.

Thankfully, there’s a freshness in The Getaway that has been lacking in their recent releases.

Credit must go to producer Danger Mouse, whose call-up ends a quarter-century relation­ship with Rick Rubin, the bearded maestro who has overseen every Chili album since 1989’s Mother’s Milk.

On the mixing desk, meanwhile, is long-term Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich, called in after working alongside bassist Flea on Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace project.

While hardly reaching that trio’s stratosphere of inventiveness, one wonders if The Get­away’s fresh sense of space and texture was inspired by Flea’s moonlighting. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, now on his second RHCP album, gels more organically than 2011’s lukewarm I’m With You.

Battling against singer Anthony Kiedis’s ever-clunky lyrics is a surprising musical restraint; The Getaway is the sound of the Chilis growing old with (relative) grace. Gone are the testosterone-fuelled funk-­metal vamps of yesteryear, in their place a rich rhythmic backbone overridden by affecting melodies and chiming, windswept guitar arpeggios – standouts include the bittersweet title track and cresting wave of Goodbye Angels.

The album only misses the mark when RHCP drift off into old habits; the Flea-by-­number slap bassline driving Dark Necessities, the trudging metal thud of This Ticonderoga and the messy faux-psychedelic excursion Dreams of a Samurai.

It barely needs saying that, despite the optimistic title, The Getaway will do nothing to assuage the haters, and is only of interest to owners of RHCP’s 1990s bestsellers – of which, amazingly, there are about 80 million out there.

The debate will rage on, and one more album needn’t trouble either camp.

rgarratt@thenational.ae