Chilis still hot as ever

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

A MILD poblano or a spicy jalapeno?

Funk-aware rock out­fit the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers are back af­ter a five-year break with an al­bum that is leaner and meaner than their last.

The big change is on lead gui­tar, with vir­tu­oso John Fr­us­ciante leav­ing the band for the sec­ond time, re­placed by his buddy Josh Klinghof­fer.

Klinghof­fer has played with Beck, Gnarls Barkley and the Pep­pers. Whether dish­ing out a re­strained acous­tic gui­tar line or a hard-hit­ting rock num­ber, his ap­proach is more tex­tu­ral and less in­clined to show off than Fr­us­ciante. It’s a good fit for the band.

The af­fect this change has had on the songs is ob­vi­ous, where a shred­ding, in­ven­tive gui­tar solo might have been in the past there is now of­ten space for bass player Flea to strut his stuff. So I’m very OK with this.

On ev­ery sec­ond song here Flea’s ir­re­press­ible bass trick­ery is given a star­ring role. The spot­light is well de­served; he shines.

The first song writ­ten for I’m With You, is also the al­bum’s high­light, Brendan’s Death Song. This heart­felt cel­e­bra­tion of the band’s dead friend, punk stal­wart, LA club owner and band bi­og­ra­pher Brendan Mullen, starts with a rare ten­der vo­cal over some light, taste­ful acous­tic gui­tar.

The al­bum opener is sim­i­larly gritty. Monar­chy of Roses kicks off with squeal­ing gui­tars and rau­cous feed­back. A dis­torted vo­cal by singer An­thony Kiedis asks: ‘‘ Do you like it rough, I ask/ And are you up to the task?’’ be­fore the band slides ef­fort­lessly into a sunny Cal­i­for­nian punk-funk num­ber that some­how blends with the rum­bling riffs and stomp­ing drums of the song’s early mo­ments.

A won­der­ful Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde im­per­son­ation is found on Good­bye Hooray. This song doesn’t seem to know if it is a hard rocker or a jazz noodler but each el­e­ment is as pleas­ing as the other. It just works.

Kiedis loves to slap some sleaze into his lyrics. There’s noth­ing ap­proach­ing the gra­tu­itous­ness of his Blood Su­gar Sex Magik days but he does slip a few Sun­set Strip wor­thy lines about strip­pers and pros­ti­tutes into I’m With You.

A mis­fire is The Ad­ven­tures of Rain Dance Mag­gie, a song that makes no sense as a sin­gle and com­pares un­favourably to ev­ery sin­gle the band has ever re­leased. Bor­ing cho­rus and a lack of gui­tars. Even a cool cow­bell can’t save this stinker.

Are these Pep­pers past their use-by date? No. They are charm­ing, bliss­ful, zippy. While I’m With You isn’t ex­actly vi­tal, it is def­i­nitely busi­ness as usual for the Pep­pers – bet­ter than good.

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