Red Hot Chili Peppers’ New Album, ‘I’m With You’: What the Critics Are Saying
From "fresh" to "lukewarm," the reviewers weigh in on the band's first studio album in five years.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their first studio album in five years, I’m With You. It will be the first album with new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced John Frusciante after he left the band in 2009.
There’s a lot of interest in the new album, which Rick Rubin (who also worked on Adele’s 21) once again produced. Their last album, 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, sold about 2.3 million copies.
To help make up your mind on whether you should pick up the new Peppers offering, here is what some of the critics are saying.
USA Today’s Jerry Shriver says 28 years after the band members began their career, they “sound fresh, friendlier and less punky on I'm With You.” He attributes the new tone to spending five years writing and producing this album since Stadium Arcadium, Klinghoffer, and “the polished pop-tinged group sound crafted by longtime producer Rick Rubin.” Shriver also says that bassist Flea and front man Anthony Kiedis “shine brightest” on the album, which he sums up as “eminently danceable, propulsive, slinky and engaging.”
Rolling Stone’s Jon Dolan feels the void that opened when Frusciante left the band couldn’t be filled. Instead, the group leaned on the other members’ musical strengths.
He says, “Instead, they've gone back to the essentials of the freaky-styley funk punk that Kiedis, Flea and drummer Chad Smith invented: fretpoppin' grooves that open up into grand, sunny pop choruses.”
Dolan seems to approve of the album's style, which he says is infused with world music nuances from East Africa and Latin America. He says approvingly that the album’s “peak moments on I'm With You balance swagger and sensitivity.”
Sarah Rodman writes in The Boston Globe that she feels Klinghoffer and Rubin give the album “14 tracks that take a few new twists,” though they “never sound like anything but the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” While Rodman thinks several tracks hit their mark, including “Happiness Loves Company” and “Did I Let You Know,” she says, “There are also spots that are curiously flat, which feels illogical given how much Flea’s bass bubbles, Chad Smith’s drums skitter and thump, and how captivating Klinghoffer’s left-turn fillips can be.”
She also says “Kiedis’ lyrical approach remains hit or miss,” citing his rap on “Did I Let You Know,” in which he rhymes “’cheeky’’ with ‘Mozambiquey.’” In all, though, she says that comes with the territory of being a Peppers fan.
While most of the reviews we read found the album held many high moments for them, the Detroit Free Press’ Martin Bandyke describes the album as a “lukewarm disc.”
“Too often painted into a corner stylistically,” Bandyke writes. “The Peppers only occasionally break out of a generic, funk-rock mold to create anything memorable.”
He finds Keidis’ vocal stylings on several tracks felt like “sound-alike numbers, although a few do pass muster, especially ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.’” He also says that another “rare standout is ‘Happiness Loves Company,’ which has a bubbly and refreshing pop feel.” And when it comes to new guitarist, Klinghoffer, he feels that his “almost heavy-metal” approach stands out on the opening track, “Monarchy of Roses,” but “Klinghoffer's contributions thereafter don't add much.” He does note that bassist Flea and drummer Smith’s “stellar work… make even the lesser moments tolerable.”