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Album Review:

“I’m With You” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

By Joe Carriere
On October 5, 2011

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' 10th album is a resounding testament to their endurance. Over 28 years, the band has had 11 personnel changes, and I'm With You is the debut of their newest incarnation, with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer replacing John Frusciante. The Peppers could have broken

up when they lost Frusciante in 2009, whose absence left a sonic hole in the lineup that produced

the band's most memorable albums, like Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication and By the Way.

Though the Peppers have been on the verge of breaking up before, they came back from the loss of Frusciante with undeniable signs of life in I'm With You. The album starts off with a cheeky guitar lick layered over distortion, as Klinghoffer announces his arrival and the band's newfound energy. The distorted intro blossoms into the electrified

"Monarchy of Roses," which drives forward into a swelling crescendo worthy of such a bold resurgence. The distinctive hard-edged funk that made the Peppers famous

is dominant in I'm With You, with Flea's bass dancing nimbly while Chad Smith hammers on the drums. The groove really moves in the polyrhythmic bopping of "Ethiopia" and Latin spice of "Did I Let You Know."

Things get more laid back in "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," with a little cowbell thrown in, and the scratchy-smooth resonance of Klinghoffer's guitar and the plunky piano mixes well with Smith's bouncy rhythms to give "Happiness Loves Company" a playful, lighthearted mood. "Look Around," possibly the most fun track on the album, brings high energy dance vibes to match the lyric "One big crash/ That no one dies in." The Peppers' return to the punk-funk isn't a regression so much as an evolution of their distinctive sound with a new guitarist. In Frusciante's later years with the band, he weaved an elaborate fabric of sound with his guitar, and then cut through that fabric with solos that blazed not with speed, but with passion.

Klinghoffer uncannily resembles Frusciante in some moments— his brief spell of haunting strains in "Factory of Faith" echoes Frusciante beautifully—but there is conviction in his playing that speaks of a new stage in the Peppers' sound that is so natural that you hardly even notice the replacement. Versatile as they have proven to be over the years, the Peppers have some sensitive tracks on the album as well. There is pain and longing as Kiedis sings of fractured, yet hopeful love in "Police Station," and the uneasy, subdued frustration "Even You Brutus?" has all the addiction of a forbidden pleasure. "Brendan's Death Song" is a soft, sweet elegy to the band's recently deceased friend Brendan Mullen that seems to rise right up to the heavens as it builds into a Foo Fighter-esque climax where Kiedis sings "Let me live/ So when it's time to die/ Even the reaper cries." The reaper will definitely cry the day that this apparently unstoppable band dies, because if I'm With You is any indication, they're just getting started again.

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