When it was announced that John Frusciante, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers was leaving, concern arose about the new direction of the ongoing Peppers. The perpetually boy-faced, angel-voice guitar savant was the driving force behind the roman-candle hooks that had propelled the last couple of Peppers albums. Frusciante has been replaced with Josh Klinghoffer, past sideman for such artists as PJ Harvey and Beck. The new directions found on the Peppers new album I’m With You are in keeping with the Klinghoffer’s punk and noise background.
Opening with the funky, disco-fueled noise jam “Monarchy of Roses,” the track sets the tone for the expansive album, one that leaves behind the virtuosic hooks that propelled past singles like “Snow (Hey Oh)” and “Can’t Stop” in favor of moodier cuts like those found on Californication. The funked-up dance stylings recur on the first single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” yet lyrically remains on familiar ground with its “hey now” chorus refrain.
So much of the album is built on the sort of dance-oriented tracks that earned Franz Ferdinand stardom a few years ago. Sonically, bassist Flea takes center stage, pumping manic funk energy into every track. Drummer Chad Smith lays down fiery percussion while Klinghoffer rounds things out with ambient, atmospheric guitar noise. Together they provide vocalist Anthony Kiedis with a solid post-disco backing for his rap-inflected melodies.
But if I’m With You is low on hooks, its pleasures come from the fact that the songs evolve more than ever before, each song bursting with unexpected vocals, guitars and the rare glimpse of piano. At 14 tracks, the Peppers are still set on the idea of the longer-playing album, especially in the wake of double-LP Stadium Arcadium. But in the face of a line-up change, the revamped Peppers are still bursting with new ideas, straddling the fine line between their funk roots and exploring satisfying new ground.