The Deal: California quartet releases its tenth studio album, first with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. I could give you background about the band and Klinghoffer, but let's get right to the music...
The Good: The band's latest effort starts out with a feedback-infused rumble with megaphoned vocals until it cuts to the pop sounds we're familiar with of recent Chili Peppers music. "Monarchy of Roses" has a bit of a disco groove to it, driven by Flea's popping bass. Klinghoffer's guitar is present, but lilting in notes and chords rather than phrases and riffs. Two thirds of the way through the song, he shows a bit more personality in a repetitive solo, but it always feels like he's holding back.
He gets to show off a different side of his picking talents with "Brendan's Death Song" — an acoustic song (in the beginning) showing a side of the Chili Peppers that isn't often heard. It's a bit too pop and bland for the funk that precedes it. It's not a bad song, but it just sounds too generic. He finds the right moments to come in with riffs on "Annie Wants a Baby," showcasing his talents a little bit at a time.
The first single from the album, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" sums up the entire album pretty well — a bit of scatting, a bit of singing, a bit of guitar play from Klinghoffer and some different drum and bass grooves from Chad Smith and Flea.
The Bad: I grew up listening to Freaky Styley, Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Mother's Milk. I feel like the band hasn't been the same since they released "Under the Bridge." For better or worse, they've gone into a Top 40 pop direction ever since, having dropped the funk and spunk of those earlier efforts. Sure the music has had it's upbeat moments, but for the most part, singer Anthony Kiedis has tried far too much to sing in recent years and his don't-give-a-shit attitude went out the window. Kiedis' biggest problem is that he's not the strongest singer. He doesn't have the range or power — he was much better off in the rapping, funky, smoothness on those earlier efforts.
"Factory of Faith" works off repetition of phrasing which was a bit annoying even before Kiedis offered an off-key chorus. His rapping during the verses fell more into the frame of talking than spitting rhymes or singing.
"Goodbye Hooray" tries to be a lot more than it is — there's a lot of playful work from Flea and Klinghoffer, but it remains essentially one chord for the verse and not much more during the chorus. It's got a great live energy to it, but taken apart, the pieces are just too simple. "Even You Brutus?" is the Chili Peppers doing their best impression of Maroon 5.
Did I actually hear someone scream "Woo!" at the beginning of "Look Around"? And what's with Kiedis' lazy lyrical style on that song — aside from the verses where he sounds like he's falling asleep, the only lyrics he could come up with for the chorus were "Look around" and "all around"?
The Verdict: The album starts off with this funk-infused, retro '70s style that harkens back to the style of the old Chili Peppers, but it quickly devolves into the "Under the Bridge" pop-rock style that the Chili Peppers have sought out in recent years. It's almost formulaic. I loved the Chili Peppers for years and always hope their next album will make me yell, "Yes! The Chili Peppers are back!" Sadly, that door closed a long time ago... There are a few gems within songs on the album, but as a whole, it's trying a bit too hard to become top 40 instead of staying strong to its roots. Then again, that's been the problem with the Chili Peppers for more than a decade.