The Red Hot Chili Peppers try again to adjust to new guitarist on 11th project

Chris Duncan

The Red Hot Chili Peppers traditionally rely on several key elements when they come together to play as one — simplistic as they may be, together they form a unified movement greater than the sum of its parts. Their newest album, The Getaway, doesn’t trail too far from unification, but lacks the passion and energy of earlier records, resulting in a mixed listen.

After losing guitarist John Frusciante for a second time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers retained their core, but lacked the flair that kept them in the limelight since their breakout with Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991. This couldn’t have been more evident than it was on I’m With You, the group’s first LP without the guitar wunderkind Frusciante. Luckily, his understudy Josh Klinghoffer was on hand to jump into the mix, but the young guitarist lacked a distinct tone to make the band’s music his own. With their follow-up effort The Getaway, the band makes a move toward a more distinct sound, incorporating soul and psychedelic funk with subpar results.

For the first time in 26 years, frontman Anthony Kiedis and company aren’t working with Rick Rubin, but instead turn to Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) for help. The change in producers creates a shift in sound between I’m With You and The Getaway that hinders the sound of the band rather than enhancing it.

In typical fashion, Danger Mouse consumes this record as he did on previous projects with the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant, making his mark on much more than the mix. A good producer typically finds subtle ways to contribute to an album, channeling the recording process but never taking over — Danger Mouse fails to accomplish that on this LP, leading to a pop-friendly sound the Chili Peppers wouldn’t normally attempt.

As a result, Klinghoffer blends into the mix rather than standing out. The Chili Peppers’ typical funk rock sound is driven by Flea’s bass and catchy guitar riffs, but on The Getaway, Klinghoffer’s contributions play second fiddle to moody piano and synths from Danger Mouse. For a band that relies on a genuine sound and performance style, the Red Hot Chili Peppers failed by not allowing their typically bombastic elements to steal the show.

To their credit, this LP is much more focused than the RHCP’s previous record, going for a unified sound rather than a smattering of jangly hits. “Go Robot” might exemplify the band’s new sound the best of any song on The Getaway, combining their classic ’80s vibes with some colorful synths and layered vocals to build off of their core with some impressive results.

The strangest moment of the project comes halfway through the album’s sixth song, “Sick Love,” which features Elton John on piano and lyrical contributions from John’s longtime songwriter Bernie Taupin. With Kiedis singing Taupin’s emotionless lyrics and looming piano from John, “Sick Love” might epitomize the struggle the Red Hot Chili Peppers are attempting to overcome — the problem of over contribution.

If the Red Hot Chili Peppers want to find their own identity as a reinvented rock band, they need to stop relying on crutches and face the facts. With Danger Mouse thrown into the mix, Klinghoffer doesn’t have the space to rise to the challenge of replacing Frusciante, and the Chili Peppers have suffered because of it. The Getaway might make marginal advances from the band’s last effort, but it doesn’t do enough to live up to their reputation as a fun-loving funk machine.

  • The Getaway
  • Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Genre: Alternative rock
  • Tracks: 13
  • Rating: 5/10