I’m With You is the 10th studio album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, released by Warner Bros. on 26th August 2011. It has been five long years since the group’s last release, and with the exit of guitarist John Frusciante in 2009, there were suspicions that the group may not record together again. Instead however they have emerged with this fresh offering, embellished with lavish (and expensive) details, such as a global listening party streaming the entire album, and cover art by courter of controversy Damian Hirst.
The album has received a fairly lukewarm reception critically, and to be honest, this album does fail to ignite like many previous RHCP albums. I’m With You is a relatively smooth and mellow album, and remarkably less punchy, aggressive and ballsy than previously. The music still has the classic Chili’s vibe – there is Anthony Kiedis’ instantly recognisable voice, Flea’s archetypal funk-rock bass adventures, and Chad Smith’s solid, unobtrusively fantastic drums – but that vibe is embedded somewhat in a wash of solid mediocrity.
The guitar is an obvious area for presumed disconcertion, but actually the Chili’s new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s style is fairly inoffensive. That’s not to say he makes a huge impression on the music either, his style just politely fits the general sound of the RHCP, and of this album, with a few nice licks and some interesting heavier work from time to time.
For me though the departure of Frusciante is a greater loss on the beautiful vocal harmonies that the Chili’s have created in their more recent albums. John’s falsetto backing vocals combined with Keidis’ lead created some of the most utterly beautiful, goosebump-inducing harmonies, and in this album have now disappeared. They do attempt a resurface on I’m With You, but they are mostly supplied by overlaid female backing, and just do not feel as organic and heartfelt as when it was created directly by the band’s own vocal chords.
There are some plus points however; as expected the album has been fanatically produced by Rick Rubin, and I’m With You features a sound that is slick, tight and clear yet enveloping. This is without doubt the best produced album I’ve heard all year, and possibly has the best literal sound quality of all the RHCP’s albums. There are some nice moments in the music too – Annie Wants a Baby has some pleasant, fairly ingenious guitar parts, and Monarchy of Roses is a catchy upbeat track.
Unfortunately however, the best tracks on I’m With You do not even reach the standards of common album tracks from the likes of By The Way and Californication. Also, considering the theme of the album is “Life and Death”, I’m With You does not have any of the raw pain and potency of all their previous albums. Simply and emotionally put – slow tracks do not make the heart bleed, and faster tracks do not excite the feet like they used to.