Fate has a way of kicking the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the pants. The death (Hillel Slovak), departure (John Frusciante) and douchiness (Dave Navarro) of Peppers guitarists has continually forced evolution upon the funk jocks. Now Josh Klinghoffer, who has played with Warpaint and Gnarls Barkley, enters through the revolving door with indie cred and a crate full of effects pedals.
Klinghoffer works with surprisingly loose reins on I’m with You. The 31-year-old’s nebulous textures are slathered, scribbled and pooled around Flea’s inimitable disco fingerbang. Nobody’s had as big a hard-on for the chorus effect since the Police. It’s a markedly different technique than Frusciante’s clean, minimal licks. Though the mellow meltaway melodies of “Meet Me at the Corner” prove he’ll have no problem handling Californication.
The new guy sings a hell of a lot, too. His androgynous vocals add a pinch of—and here’s a word you rarely see thrown at the cock-sockers—femininity. Meanwhile, Flea puts his music theory coursework at USC to work with Latin trumpet breakdowns (“Did I Let You Know”) and pounding pianos (“Happiness Loves Company,” “Even You Brutus?”).
While denser and more complex, album ten is less immediate and gently proggy. If the middle-aged surfers have remained trim in the middle, their records have not. They have a jazz odyssey in them yet. In his advancing age, Anthony Kiedis is rapping less and musing more on loss and death, something these dudes don’t get enough credit for knowing all too much about. “I’m almost dead, I’m almost gone,” he sings on the honestly stirring “Brendan’s Death Song.” How will he ever cope? Ah, yes. He’ll “put [his] peg into your square.”