Previously, when I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers were releasing another album, I used to get excited….. That was before seeing them perform one of the most disappointing stadium gigs I’ve ever been to (on the By The Way tour) followed by a string of competent, yet less than thrilling albums. By The Way seemed to be trying too hard to be a “grown-up” album. Stadium Arcadium may well have been a decent album if they had tried to edit it down to a single CD rather than releasing the impenetrable double disc that they did release and “I’m With You” whilst trying to bring Flea back to the forefront of songs (unlike the previous two albums) did sound a bit like they were a band with a new member, trying to find their way….. Hence, their new album The Getaway, didn’t really register with me until I had the opportunity to review it.
Out of a sense of duty, I listened to it, fully expecting to be disappointed but I was surprised by the eponymous opening track - looks like they found the funk button again!! Whilst the song is quite sparse, it sways along quite hypnotically. I probably wouldn’t have chosen it as an opener, but somehow it works. “Dark Necessities” is next up and sounds more like a song from much earlier in their career. Again Flea’s bass work is the star but there are some nice touch from the (still relatively) new guitarist. That the Chilis have added the funk side back to the mature side that they seemed to be trying to tap into over recent albums, is to their credit. The piano on this track floats alongside and only adds to the quality of this song. Third song in, “We Turn Red”, is another throwback to earlier in their career. There is an almost child-like quality to Anthony Kiedis vocals in places on this song. More funky touches are definitely welcome here – but the mellow sections give you a break from that as well.
It’s followed by a softer, slower track in “The Longest Wave” – with an intro that is the long lost cousin of the intro to “Under the Bridge”. Whilst not a stinker, it’s probably not one of my favourites here. Nice use of the mellotron, though! “Goodbye Angels” returns things to a more rocky style. The intro builds nicely in a way that is reminiscent of “Can’t Stop” – one of the few highlights of the aforementioned “By The Way” album - and is one of many times that the band reference themselves. The “ay-oh-ay-oh-ay-oh” motif in the verses is quite catchy as well. Another slow song “Sick Love” follows but unlike “The Longest Wave”, this is more of a groover, with (as usual) a great bass riff from Flea – bit of a strange cameo from co-writer Elton John, on piano, to boot. “Go Robot” is a little bit of a strange arrangement with just bass and drums and the odd bit of keyboard during the verses – Klinghoffer finally appears in the chorus, laying down a funky rhythm, in the great tradition of Chilis records past. Even the instrumental break has keyboards and no room for guitar. It’s a great song.
“Feasting on the Flowers” is another slow groover and again sounds more like something they may have done earlier in their careers – the chorus has the quick vocal lines that are almost a trademark for the band – before a great piano line features in the middle eighth. “Detroit” is a bit more upbeat and features some great work on the toms by the (as always) excellent Chad Smith, during the chorus. Around two thirds of the way through the album and it’s safe to say that Red Hot Chili Peppers have finally produced another quality album.
The climax to the album begins with “This Ticonderoga” - a stocatto riff based rocker, which retains more of the recently used stylings that the band has developed, however, there is still a funky edge before the song breaks down to quite a gentle interlude, with more piano – then back to the thunderous main riff. More evidence that the band seems to have harnessed their (seemingly) longed-for maturity alongside the more funky aspects with which they made their name. In Flea, RHCP, have always had one of music’s more iconic bass players and his creative bass line opens “Encore” which is a gentle number with minimal drumming but some lovely interaction between bass and guitars. I normally prefer more rocky material but this gentle song is probably one of my favourites here – superb stuff. Surprisingly it’s followed by another gentle song, “The Hunter” which has some almost Bealtes-esque sounding bass and orchestral stylings. Again, not the sort of song that I like as much as I do this particular effort. Strangely, Klinghoffer plays the bass and Flea doesn’t appear on the song at all. The album closes with the brilliant “Dreams of a Samurai” which is a kindred spirit with “Transcending” from the “One Hot Minute” album in that it’s underpinned by a brilliant circular running bass-line. A great closing track.
With The Getaway being their 11th album, this is their first since Blood Sugar Sex Magik (the band’s 5th album) without Rick Rubin on production duties. My take on things is that this has freshened the band up – they’ve admitted to writing songs which were scrapped when new producer Danger Mouse, signed up and challenged the band to start afresh. With Klinghoffer now fully embedded within the band, they sound like a cohesive unit and this album benefits as a result. I don’t think I can honestly say this would top the behemoth of an album that Blood Sugar is but this could be their best work since then. This is certainly a contender for my album of the year.