Veteran rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest album comes 32 years after their first. In this time they have released 11 studio albums, a total to which most bands do not come close before the inevitable solo aspirations or in-fighting set in. In this period there have of course been numerous fallouts, departures and hiatuses. However, the core of the group – frontman Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea – have remained loyal, becoming the faces (and usually topless torsos) of this very successful band. They have been inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame; Flea performed the national anthem at Kobe Bryant’s last game (actually, let’s forget about that one). The lifelong friends, along with Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer, are back after five years with ‘The Getaway.’
From the outset, it is clear that this is a calmer, milder version of the RHCP. The punk influences so prominent earlier in their careers have faded, although they have not disappeared. There is still the spikiness of Kiedis’ voice and the emphasis on bass guitar riffs, demonstrating Flea’s importance to the band in both performing and composing. However, this album could reasonably be described as background music or chillout music; this, with the exception of the odd song like Scar Tissue, is relatively new territory. Usually the RHCP are the loud, brash band you play air guitar to while you’re a teenager. However, the album’s first song, the titular The Getaway, is somehow more serene. It retains the cool beat and the guitar harmonies of old, but the presence of backing singers seems to mellow Kiedis. His voice is not as staccato as it is on, say, Can’t Stop or Ethiopia. Rather, it is a calm entry to the album, which is immediately followed by the album’s first single, Dark Necessities. While there is more of the loud, ranging vocals here, it retains the new album’s vibe, which is somehow more mature. All bands must eventually grow up or split up to avoid going stale; RHCP have definitely grown up.
Other highlights on the album are Go Robot and We Turn Red, two songs that encapsulate what this album is about, namely retaining the rock band’s ethos while moving in a somewhat mellower direction. However, it is very difficult to make a mild album without seeming, by comparison to old material, a bit boring. Are The Longest Wave and Feasting On The Flowers the same song? No, but notable differences are at a premium here. It may seem like I’m being difficult to please but this is a 13 track album where a lot of the songs do not contribute an awful lot; the end part blends into one a little bit. This is not Californication or Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but then it’s not supposed to be; the album is taking a different direction, playing out a different path, and it is one that mostly works. While reproducing the same old music seems easy, retaining interest across 32 years and 11 albums is some feat, and testament to the appeal and ability of this band.