This album should have been titled Playing It Safe. I’ve read all the press about how this record is “a return to form” or “the beginning of a new phase”and “one of their best in recent memory”. I’m going to agree with the last statement back there. Let’s be honest folks; 1999’s Californication was the last great album RHCP put out. Afterward we had By The Way, which was a slow letdown, then Stadium Arcadium or a single album disguised as a double album, which brings us to their latest effort: I’m With You.
Now that guitarist John Frusciante has left the band for good, RHCP brought in session man Josh Klinghoffer to fill the void. Too bad he doesn’t shine too bright on this album as the massive drums of Chad Smith and Flea’s funky bass hammer on many of the tracks. When there is a chance for a guitar solo, I’m not rocketed through the stratosphere as I once had been. You’ll even notice Anthony Keidis using fewer jokes, and he’s trying to sing more than rap, which would be cool if he wasn’t sporting a strange mustache.
Yet this is a band that has seen many ups and downs, along with countless lineup changes over the past 30 years. If anything, this album feels like a stop gap until everyone can feel comfortable enough to kick out the jams. That, and I think they need to get rid of Rick Rubin as producer and bring in someone else to mix it up a bit.
As the elder Peppers are all nearing 50 (I know, right?) you can understand they may not want to sing about girls, drugs and doing nasty things with girls and drugs. This album will tide over folks that loved the last two records and makes allusions to something better if they decide to drop another record in the future.
Check out: “Factory of Faith”, “Look Around”, “Happiness Loves Company”, “Monarchy of Roses”, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and “Brendan’s Death Song”, which is dedicated to the memory of a lost friend and might be the best track on the album. I’d suggest checking these songs first before running out to grab a copy – or borrow it from someone if you can.