Red Hot Chili Peppers, “The Getaway”
The Getaway doesn’t shine as much as it glimmers.
It seems that every time the Red Hot Chili Peppers decide to take a new direction, they catch shit for it. But given the fact they’ve established themselves as icons throughout the years, even after several lineup changes, they could do whatever the fuck they wanted and critics be damned. Their status in the rock pantheon has established them to the point where they aren’t obligated to add anything new. And it is admirable that they’re still going at it into their twilight years, even if only a few seemed to get behind it.
I hesitate to compare the band to their past catalogue because they’re lightyears away from where they started and, like most artists, they just want to keep moving forward. They were the only band doing what they were doing at the time, combining funk and rock, at times blending in rap and soul. But as time went by, they didn’t rest on their laurels and sought new territory. In essence, they were pioneers.
Their newest album, The Getaway, has the sensibility that Chilies want to keep trying new things and evolving, but at the same time they want to remain true to who they are and what made them. The biggest change is having Danger Mouse as producer and Nigel Godrich as mixer. The fact that they’re working with the Chili Peppers should be a musical wet dream coming to life.
Unfortunately, having sexy production value doesn’t really help the issues that seem to drag the album down. In fact, it is the band’s old habits that hinder what could have been, maybe even should have been, a bold step forward. Strangely enough, moments when the band doesn’t sound like typical Red Hot Chili Peppers are what shine the most, which isn’t an insult. If anything, it’s a testament that the Chili’s are more than just their sound, but a cohesive unit that is capable of making great music. It’s just a shame that those moments are brought down because the band must firmly stay true to their roots, or just stick with what they know.
The band is still trying to keep up the energy, just a little more accessibly. Maybe even too accessibly.
If you had to label one Chili Peppers album that felt “poppy”, this would be it. Whether or not that’s bad is left up to the listener, but the guys seem content with it. It just means that they had to give up some edges to make it that way, and it shows. Two songs where the band goes ape shit, “Detroit” and “This Ticonderoga”, get the energy level up, but still somehow feels constrained. And the rapping that we’re used to even feels slightly contrived.
The lyrics are also a low point. We’re not even one minute deep into the opening title track before the first reference to California is made, one of the minor criticisms they’ve been called out for in the past. Granted, it’s not a deal-breaker, but it is getting dangerously close to being cringe-worthy. But beyond the silly metaphors and ridiculous euphemisms (“does your candy really open wide?”) are refreshingly real moments. In the lead single off the album, “Dark Necessities”, Anthony exclaims, “You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind,” showing that you don’t have to paint a picture, but just get something off your chest. It’s strikingly appropriate from a man who’s been mocked before, but doesn’t falter in the face of it.
There are definite good points, especially when the band breaks tradition. Songs like “Go Robot” and “Encore” show that they are capable of successfully experimenting without going too far off the deep end, but still have that Chili-Pepper appeal. The latter takes melancholy elements and pushes them, with the band coalescing into a sonic tapestry that illustrates every member’s strengths. Here it feels less like they are trying to prove something and instead everything just flows naturally. They haven’t lost anything, but compared to songs like “Sick Love” and “The Hunter”, the most boring song on the album, they didn’t really gain much either.
The problem with The Getaway is not an issue of quality; it just doesn’t have that little spark that sets it apart from everything else, except the production value. There’s an aching for some sort of Red-Hot Renaissance here, and if tradition were cast aside, it would have done just that. Not everyone would have liked it, but it would have been impossible to ignore. And given the Chili Peppers’ contributions to music, they have license to experiment. They’ve done it before and have shined brightly for it, even in the face of detractors. Californication and By the Way illustrates those points succinctly.
The Getaway doesn’t shine as much as it glimmers, but it leaves comfort in knowing that the Chili Peppers are far from being done and that they still have potential to knock it out of the park.