The Getaway by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is an unexpected move from the funk-rock titans. It’s an unconventional record informed by hip hop and retro funk. The overall vibe is more like an indie record rather than a stadium-filling commercial rock act. The maturity of song-writing is unsurprising for such a veteran band. What is perhaps surprising is that 11 albums into their career, the Peppers are still breaking new ground.
Red Hot Chili Peppers move away from established sound
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2011 effort I’m with You was more of a straight-up rock/pop with a funky vibe. The Getaway tones down the big rock sound. Instead it hearkens back to the 60s and 70s funk and Motown which have always had an undercurrent in the band’s music. Off-beat drum grooves, syncopated guitar and funky bass lines abound. The Peppers have made enough commercial rock in the past so more of that material would have been predictable and dull. This new direction is much more exciting.
Dark Necessities offers first taste of The Getaway
In April Flea said that the funky jam of Go Robot would be the first single. Apparently the label had other ideas and Dark Necessities was given the single treatment. The song went on to be the band’s 25th top-ten single in the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. It’s also an excellent introduction to the album as a whole. Flea’s incessant bass line introduces the song before he launches into a signature slap bass groove into the verse. Josh Klinghoffer eschews his guitar in the first verse in favour of an understated piano figure. He later breaks out his wah pedal to add some rhythmic texture to the song. Anthony Kiedis sings rhythmically, almost rapping over the verses, before singing a melancholy chorus. It’s all recognisable Chili Pepper elements, however everything’s implemented in a retro vibe rather than a modern pop fashion. It’s a beautiful, dark song that shows the band’s willingness to experiment. Simply the best choice they could have made.
Danger Mouse heads production duties
The album was produced by Danger Mouse, which makes it the band’s first album in 25 years without Rick Ruben at the helm. Nigel Godrich mixed the album, which makes him quite the man of the moment, as he produced Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Danger Mouse pushed the band to work in more of a hip hop fashion by improvising in the studio over a drum machine. Ruben, although he comes from a hip hop background himself, only came in after the material was written in the rehearsal studio. Despite Flea’s initial concerns about working with Danger Mouse, the new method has definitely paid off. Perhaps this way of writing is the reason the Peppers have shown a creative leap on The Getaway.
Klinghoffer steps up as writer
The Getaway is the second Red Hot Chili Peppers album to feature Klinghoffer on guitar. He played as a touring guitarist alongside John Frusciante for two years before joining the band. It’s clear Klinghoffer has learned a trick or two of the legendary Frusciante during that time. His slide playing in We Turn Red is reminiscent of Scar Tissue, and the hammer-ons in the intro of The Longest Wave are also pleasantly familiar.
A lot of fans are still calling for Frusciante’s return, which is understandable given his prodigious talents. However, Klinghoffer’s contributions are actually exactly what this album needed. Flea and drummer Chad Smith drive much of the material on the album. Smith lays down a funky pattern and Flea grooves over the top. Klinghoffer comes in and out as required to add texture and dynamics. His style is perfect for the subtle, ethereal feel of the album. The syncopated catchy riff that opens Feasting on the Flowers is a highpoint, as is the laid-back comping in Sick Love. The mournful melodies at the close of The Getaway also highlights Klinghoffer’s playing.
Chad Smith is also a key part of the album. Many times on slower albums, the drumming becomes dull, tapping away in the background. Chad’s playing has a huge amount of personality and his rock-solid groove is integral to The Getaway. It would be a totally different record without his input. His playing is organic yet you can still hear how Danger Mouse’s production style has crept in, with its use of drum machines during the writing. It gives Smith’s drumming a slightly different direction but there’s nothing wrong with shaking up the formula a bit.
New ground broken on The Getaway
The Getaway is a triumph for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band released some amazing records in the ’90s but over the years their material became progressively less interesting. The Getaway turns around this trend and pushes the band in a fresh direction. It’s not likely to go down as their finest record but it’s the best they’ve produced in well over a decade. The Peppers features some of the best veteran players in the business and the varied, dynamic material on the album allows them to really shine.
The new album is now available on iTunes and Amazon (Vinyl too!).