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One of two things happens when you’ve been a band for as long as Red Hot Chili Peppers have been. Either you take over the world, or you start producing subpar music. Funnily enough, the band has done both.
Now, let’s get one thing straight, Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t created a bad album with ‘The Getaway‘ per say, but it’s not that good of an album either. It’s completely mediocre and that is not okay, not from a prestige act such as themselves. See, this album was supposedly a big change for the Peppers, with them stepping outside their comfort zone and really trying to push themselves. Or so they say.
Working with a new producer for the first time since 1993’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic, producer Danger Mouse was brought in to hopefully mix things up. With a new producer at the helm, and one who is obviously from an electronic, hip-hop background, these songs were created and produced in a totally different way, as such, the album has come out quite… “differently”.
Flea previously told Rolling Stone Magazine that, “Brian [Danger Mouse] wanted us to create in the studio. But the way we’ve always created was we went into the rehearsal studio, wrote all the stuff, put all the songs together and then Rick [Rubin] would come in during the last period and go through them with us and help us organize them. He’d tell us what was good and what wasn’t. It was a really healthy relationship. And then the studio was just a place to document all the work we’d done in the rehearsal studio.”
So what is my take on this switch up, the changed producers and this “create in the studio” sound? Well, I really think that they should have stayed in their rut. Because this a band that has a killer live sound and a great on-disc sound, and now for some reason, they’ve wanted to change all of that up. What these songs sound like are four guys sitting in a room making music with seemingly no drive or ambition to top their past records.
They are simply keeping up with the past rather than setting the bar for the future.
The album has its moments for sure, from some slick melodies, wicked bass lines, and hard hitting drum grooves. However, easily one of the few standout songs here is the lead single, ‘Dark Necessities‘. It’s not hard to see why this was pushed by Danger Mouse to be the lead single. It has the infamous slap bass from Flea, the solid, easily digestible chorus, and the kind of tight, infectious drumming that you’d expect from the band. It has the slow build and fast finish of the early RHCP, and I want more of this! But I rarely get more on ‘The Getaway‘.
The title track is perhaps one of the only other good songs on offer. It’s simple, it’s moving and it’s beautiful in its own way. But just what the hell is up with the drum sound on it? I can’t tell if I love it or if I hate that I love it. The drums are just so lo-fi, distorted and…just utterly magical. It shows that not everything has to be polished and pristine to be truly great. Sometimes it really is just the character of a song that makes us go back for repeat listens, just like this one. While it might not be the fast hitting, funk sensation of the old days, it is a great change, but in small doses.
When the intro guitar of ‘Detroit‘ hit me, I lost my shit over how good it was. But then, sadly, all the feeling and drive the song just falls away right in front of me. This track sounds like a bunch of teenagers jammed in a room trying to copy RHCP. It’s a sloppy, mediocre attempt to sound like them.
‘Goodbye Angels’ starts and I can hear the buzz in the guitar tracks as it’s slowly building up, and bass guitar drops and drums build up the hype. This song feels different, as it has real potential. But then like, ‘Detroit‘, it just goes nowhere. The chorus lacks power, even for a ballad style track such as this. The electronic elements in the second verse take away from the song, and I question their inclusion. But then we have the outro and it feels like two completely separate tracks. One minute I’m hating this song, and then this outro hits and it is un-fucking-believable and I love it. It has screeching guitars, thumping drums, and as always Flea slaps the shit out of the bass with reckless abandon. It is the real highlight of the track, but it is sadly one of the few moments on this album when you can still hear the beauty of their classics coming through.
The problem with Danger Mouse’s approach is that everything needs to be written in the studio. A producer is meant to work with the band to get the best sound out of them, not to sculpt and change who they are. Prior to going into the studio, the band had written over 30 tracks, and they threw them all out. What did these sound like? Goddamnit, please tell me if they were better than these?! Did the label get involved and tell them that these will sell better, or they’ll get an even bigger audience? News flash, they don’t need the money and they already have a fucking huge audience.
My other big problem is that the record recently hit number #1 on the ARIA Charts and it should have never gotten close. If this was a smaller, more unknown band, it wouldn’t be receiving the glowing reviews or praises that it has gotten. If they came out with this 20 years ago, it probably wouldn’t have propelled them into stardom. This is an album that will be chewed up, spat out, and forgotten about. Like many great bands before them, they really don’t need the money, as they can tour for the rest of their lives and people will always want to see them live.
The band said it themselves in recent interviews that John Frusciante was a huge driving force behind the songwriting and the sound of the band. Two albums later and we can really see that something is missing, and it may be the energy of the band, Rick [Rubin] as the producer, or Frusciante helping to produce the songs. Or maybe it’s all of the above. All of the greatest hits from the band were created during the Frusciante years, and I can’t help but feel like the band is only harming their reputation by continuing to write uninspired music such as this.
We need to move past the fact that this band will never ever be the same. This may be a funk driven record, but it comes off more like a modern day easy listening ambient record. It lacks the energy, the aggression and the quick-witted humour that made the Red Hot Chili Peppers great to begin with. Looks like old mate John Frusciante got out at the right time before the band started going down the tubes.
But at least we can sit back and listen to carpool karaoke and just enjoy what they once were!
1. The Getaway
2. Dark Necessities
3. We turn Red
4. The Longest Wave
5. Goodbye Angels
6. Sick Love
7. Go Robot
8. Feasting on the Flowers
10. This Ticonderoga
12. The Hunter