It is not mere chance that the Chilli’s have cemented their position in the annals of rock. Their name has been synonymous with the word alternative ever since their first performance of “Out in LA” back in the early 80’s. The funk-punk-rock machine has rolled on through the decades, and with every chuff of sex-infused rock, it has captured the imagination of young, sweaty axe-wielders across the world. Their durability is a testament to their craftsmanship (and possibly high tolerance of class-A drugs) and here we are now with their 11th full-length LP “The Getaway”.
I have been a fan of the Chilli’s ever since the first album I received as a child, which was a copy of Stadium Arcadium. I loved the album dearly, well, that is the first disc, until someone told me there was a second a few years later, but even then I was hooked on this pulsing collection of songs which for my 10-year old, quicksilver-clad self became a sought of comfort. Naturally I worked my way back through the albums, marvelling at the magnificent capacity of the band to continuously evolve their sound and I slowly came to realise the genius of one man in particular, their lead guitarist since 1989; John Frusciante. His ability to create the most riveting of riffs and hence provide a platform for the band to breathe life into a song was reminiscent of some of the great guitar players of old. His harmonies gave pieces of work an ethereal quality, and when he left the band in 2009 he seemed irreplaceable. With the addition of Josh Klinghoffer, the Chilli’s moved in a new direction with their 2011 release “I’m With You”, which was in many people’s eyes a bang average record particularly for the old curmudgeons longing for the next “By the Way” record (considered by many to be the bands magnum opus).
For the new album the band enlisted the production of none other than Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who among his credits include Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys and The Gorillaz. This a sad farewell to the furry sage-like hip-hop god Rick Rubin who to his credit managed to transform the chilli’s into the rock leviathan that they are now. The change was to hopefully bring a dark, ambient sound to the new record and propel the band out of the mire.
It kicks off with the title track “The Getaway”, which showcases Danger Mouse’s stamp by generating the ambient feel through percussive guitar, synths and swirling backing vocals which builds to a catchy but rather, for want of a better word, meh chorus. Throughout the album this seems to be a recurring theme, where you think your hooked to the cool hip sound and then suddenly dropped into a disappointing chorus or breakdown punctuated by the croonest of the croons in Kiedis (who we must give credit for not mentioning California until halfway through the first track). Yet there are some moments where we’re taken back to the pomp of the Chilli’s funk era, and you remember why you love the band so much, tracks like “Dark Necessities” and “Detroit” give you that beautiful dose of Flea Funk Salad that you were craving for. There has certainly been an effort by Danger Mouse to weld his musical nous with the energy of the Chilli Peppers, this gives the record a rich feel, and by not curbing the bands creative spark, he has also managed to retain a distinct “Chilli” sound. The album does draw a lot from their funk influence, but the overall feel is one of soft pop-rock, which is why songs like stompy number “This Ticonderoga” feel slightly out of place, and this particular track has to take the biscuit for the cringe chorus award.
One thing which became very apparent was the understated role of Josh Klinghoffer throughout the record, his highlights were the tracks “Sick Love” and “We Turn Red”, in which he captivates us with that dark and raw distorted guitar sound. The poor guy often bears the brunt of many a disgruntled Chilli’s fan who blame him for the bands apparent lack of vision, which I believe is misplaced having heard some of his terrific contributions to Frusciante’s solo work. As good as he is, it maybe that he’s just destined for something a bit more underground and very L.A.
Overall the tracks lacked traction (had to get it in there), ie. the “go back and listen” factor was missing, and I think this can only be blamed on the wish-washy nature of a lot of the ambient builds, they lack bite and only accentuate the nonsensical often perplexing lyrical content. As much as they should be lauded for taking a new approach and meddling with new influences, the melodies created by the marriage of Mouse and Chilli, as lush as they sound, feel slightly empty, and are often carried through the songs by the spine of bass and drum. It leaves us yearning for that stripped back Chilli’s sound that we’re so familiar with and are unlikely to hear again.
However, if you’re looking for a fun record to indulge in throughout the summer then look no further than this, it certainly won’t blow you away and some of the songs you’ll just have to yawn through, but it sounds good and after all why wouldn’t we be listening to music if it didn’t. Its four guys trying to make a funky record, lets enjoy the ride.
Wishing you a merry Brexit,