What is to be said about the Red Hot Chili Peppers that hasn’t been said? After almost 30 years of being a band they have had enough substance abuse, lineup changes and monstrous hits to fill multiple Behind the Music episodes. Their latest personnel change happened this year when the at times mysterious and always entertaining John Fruscainte parted ways with the band and was replaced with long time understudy Josh Klinghoffer. The real question about “I’m With You” isn’t really how it’s going to sound or even if it will sell. The main concerns are that the Peppers are going to try to force Klinghoffer into a Fruscainte sized role if he’s capable or not and what the future holds for the quartet.
This album delivers exactly what you are expecting from it. Anthony Kedis still delivers oftentimes non-sense verses over mid to up-tempo funk laid down by Flea and Chad Smith. Kedis’ voice, however sounds better on this album than any other Pepper’s album I can think of. It’s still not anything to brag about, but he’s finally gained the ability to pinpoint the range that he is capable of. This can be heard specifically on “Brendan’s Death March” and “Meet Me On The Corner.” Flea and Chad Smith have honestly never left me wanting when it comes to the amount of funk that they bring to Pepper’s songs, in fact it’s what my fandom is mainly based on. This album is no different. Tower Power meets Parliament bass lines on “Look Around” and a four on the floor, steady disco boogie on songs like “Dance, Dance, Dance” are just a taste of the intricate interplay they have as a rhythm section. Even Klinghoffer does a great job too by blending in perfectly and trying not to outperform Fruscainte or force his own style into the musical make up. His presence isn’t ever really felt, in fact the few solos he has are short and sweet as on “Did I Let You Know”
The lack of a second creative mind that Fruscainte brought to the band is the album’s biggest downfall. I say this now, I like half of this album; it is classic Pepper’s stuff. There are some really good, stand out tracks, yet most tracks are copy cats of other ideas the Peppers have succeeded within the past or the band experimenting with a new direction. I like that they recognized this as the time to experiment, but most of their experiments like “Even You Brutus?” and “Happiness Loves Company” leave me thinking “what the hell were they doing?” As a Pepper’s fan, this album really left me with a lot of questions about the future of the band without Fruscainte. It seems to me that he was the driving force musically of the band. I wonder how much longer these guys can keep the train on the rails. The band is quite aware of this by the overwhelming amount of down trodden and cynical lyrics throughout the album. The feeling can be summed up in “Brendan’s Death Song.” And When You Hear This, Know It’s Your Jam / It’s You’re Goodbye. I hope it’s not a goodbye from the Pepper’s, but they don’t seem too confident about it either.