Two songs in, and we have Flea’s bombastic, Seinfeldian bass, Chad Smith’s tight drumming, Frusciante-esque staccato funk riffs courtesy of Josh Klinghoffer, and Anthony Kiedis spouting his typical nonsense (it takes less than 2 minutes for him to name-drop his native California). This is the same tried-and-true formula the band have been using for well over a decade now, but The Getaway finds the Red Hot Chili Peppers utilizing their usual sonic tropes with a surprisingly restrained and refreshed musical palette.
This much-needed breath of fresh air stems from a change in the bands personnel. The Getaway marks the first RHCP album since 1989’s Mother’s Milk not to have producer Rick Rubin at the helm. In his absence we have Brian Burton, otherwise known as Danger Mouse, and Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame on mixing duty. Given that Burton also has co-writing credits on 5 of the album’s tracks, the significance of this change-up cannot be understated.
The Chili Peppers have always had a good ear for pop sensibilities, so it makes sense that Burton strives to retain their trademark sound while giving it fresh commercial appeal. Take album highlight ‘Go Robot’, which, despite being about sex with robots, is pretty damn catchy, and is a somewhat different landscape for the band with its inclusion of spacey synthesizers coupled with Nigel Godrich’s clear, layered mixing. This is definitely the most welcome change – RHCP’s catalogue post-One Hot Minute has been marred by excessively loud, muddy mastering, to the point where many fans deemed their records unlistenable.
With smoother production comes smoother song writing on the bands part. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer has finally found his place in the band, providing a diverse mix of delicate psychedelia and punchy funk riffs. Though not quite as memorable as past affairs with John Frusciante, he (mostly) takes a more restrained approach, providing a textured backdrop that serves to accent each musician’s melodic prowess rather than their virtuoso abilities. With the inclusion of some subtle string arrangements and piano leads, the band showcase a more nuanced approach to song structure than they have in years.
Nuance isn’t a word you could use to describe Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics however, which often read like scraps from a 14-year-old’s poetry notebook. That said, his turbid bunk does have a sense of melody, and sits in nicely with the rhythm section, but that’s about it. To his credit, it isn’t all amphigory on Kiedis’ part, with multiple songs on the album covering (in-between the sputtering word salad) his breakup with Australian model Helena Vestergaard, in his own way of course: “Yes I told her that/I’m the older cat/Can I scratch your back all day/I would not have it any other way.”
The Getaway, while still falling victim to the same flaws that have followed them for quite some time, has the Chili Peppers mixing in some new tricks into their old formula. It may not always work, but when it does it presents the band with a new sense of direction and vitality – and considering they’ve been releasing music for over 30 years now, they still have a surprising amount of it.
The Getaway is available now via Warner Bros.