Albums Of The Week

Still red-hot after 33 years

Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album reflects their maturity, but remains true to the band's punky playfulness

Red Hot Chili Peppers comprise (from far left) Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer. They retain their rhythm-heavy sound in their new album The Getaway.
Red Hot Chili Peppers comprise (from far left) Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer. They retain their rhythm-heavy sound in their new album The Getaway.PHOTO: STEVE KEROS/WARNER MUSIC

In several ways, The Getaway, American funk rock luminaries Red Hot Chili Peppers' 11th full-length album, is a landmark release.

All three long-time members - singer Anthony Kiedis, 53; bassist Flea, 53; and drummer Chad Smith, 54 - have passed 50, a prospect almost unthinkable, given the trademark shenanigans of their youth.

Master producer Rick Rubin, who helped sharpen the band's earlier funk/punk mojo into mainstream chart success, beginning with 1991's breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, has been replaced by Danger Mouse, another vaunted producer whose touch has graced a range of artists as disparate as blues-rock duo The Black Keys, ballad queen Adele and rapper ASAP Rocky.

The Getaway is not a drastic departure from the band's rhythm-heavy sound - Flea's adroit bass runs still dominate, anchored by some of Smith's most nimble drumming in years. Kiedis has long ditched the manic delivery found in their earlier work in favour of lilting and melancholic vocal melodies.

Still, Danger Mouse puts in plenty of little flourishes that make The Getaway a solid and coherent album, one that reflects their maturity, but does not lose sight of the punky playfulness of their early years.



    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Warner Bros

    3.5/5 stars

While the perky Go Robot features futuristic disco embellishments, Sick Love shimmers with unlikely collaborators - Elton John on piano and his long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin contributing lyrics.

The mellow tracks are some of the strongest. Ghostly ballad The Hunter, which sees the band backed by a string section and choir, is a touching rumination on father-and-son relationships while The Longest Wave taps into Kiedis' heartbreak following his recent break-up with Australian model Helena Vestergaard.

There is still plenty of bite though. Schizophrenic track This Ticonderoga switches between psychedelia and punk, while Goodbye Angels, featuring some of guitarist and newest member Josh Klinghoffer's finest fretwork, shines with a tension-building verse and a cathartic third act.

Klinghoffer, 36, joined the band in 2009.

While certain individual lines and couplets can be typically Kiedis - that is kooky and offbeat ("Hotter than the wax/On a saxifrag", he sings awkwardly on The Longest Wave), you sense that there is a lot of heart in the lyrics.

The familiar tributes to the highs and lows of their home base California are still there, but there are also songs that take stock of the United States as a whole. Detroit namechecks the city's iconic music sons, from The Stooges to Funkadelic, while We Turn Red is a musical road trip to destinations such as New Orleans, Delaware and Chicago.

Late founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died of a drug overdose in 1988, is remembered in Feasting On The Flowers. Even as the 33-year-old band embrace their role as one of America's elder statesmen of rock, they are still clinging onto remnants of their past.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Still red-hot after 33 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe