When asked his feelings about California alt rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, praised the group for their sense of humor, authenticity, and above all, exuberance. “Everything else around that time was so joyless”, he said in a 2015 Pitchfork interview. Indeed, even the Chili Peppers’ most somber songs had a paradoxical element of bliss infused into them.

During the 1990s and 2000s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers proved themselves to be titans of quality, critically-viable radio rock. Chad
Smith’s pounding, relentless drums, Flea’s awe- inspiring bass lines, and former member John Frusciante’s Hendrix-esque guitar finesse made the band an instrumental force to be reckoned with. But large_336906_10150306912828919_8335563918_7998255_1831459_o
frontman Anthony Kiedis’s hilarious lyrics, melodic sensibilities, and infectious personality led the way to great success. Kiedis was the Chili Peppers’ true source of the joyfulness Josh Tillman was referring to.

But lately Kiedis hasn’t been so joyful. The 53-year-old singer recently broke up with his 22-year-old model girlfriend Helena Vestergaard. Needless to say, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ eleventh studio album The Getaway, largely inspired by Kiedis’s breakup, is not a happy record. What happens, you might ask, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers are stripped of their characteristic joyfulness? The answer is simple: they become nothing more than another bland, forgettable, boring radio rock band.

Danger Mouse handles the production on The Getaway, taking the band in an entirely different direction from their previous efforts. The Chili Peppers have more or less ditched their signature punk-funk rock sound on this record, instead infusing elements of post-punk, disco, and 80s power pop. And boy, oh boy, is the result monotonous.

The Getaway opens with the record’s first two promo singles, “The Getaway” and “Dark Necessities”. I wasn’t diggin’ these songs too much when they initially dropped, but somehow they ended up beingrhcpgold two of my favorite tracks from the album (they didn’t grow on me that much, the album is just that bad). “The Getaway” features a funky, linear disco groove and hypnotic, throbbing synths. The vocal
melodies are pretty but kinda generic. However, the ethereal background vocal swells and the call-and-response chorus between Kiedis and his female backup singers save the song. Still, this cut is fairly one-dimensional; there’s no real dynamic energy.

“Dark Necessities” is introduced with thunderous, open piano chords and an inspirational build that I could picture Rocky training to. The funky, slapped bass line that follows is nothing new for Flea, but meshes surprisingly well with the song’s mellow piano-driven instrumental. However, Kiedis’s melodies are once again nothing special.

I sort of look at The Getaway as the awkward ugly cousin of the band’s 2002 album By The Way, a record made up mostly of subdued, gorgeously melodic ballads. The Getaway, another collection of somber ballads, is equally as subdued, but much less gorgeous. Kiedis’s vocal melodies are thoughtless, yet paradoxically forced. He tries so hard to wow and inspire us with these grand, faux-epic choruses that simply come off corny, like the campy hook on “Sick Love”, co-written by Elton John (ya done fucked up, Elton!).

Rather than playing to the strengths of his kooky personality, Kiedis relies on his voice, never his strong suit, to convey the record’s emotional substance, but more often then not these attempts fall flat (both idiomatically and vocally). The melodies on “Goodbye Angels” may have tugged at my heart strings if sung by someone with a more powerful, more expressive voice, but with Kiedis’s singing, the track does little to nothing for me viscerally.

Danger Mouse attempts to remedy Kiedis’s vocal limitations by sprucing up production. He adds layered female vocals on the chorus of “The Hunter” and group vocals and clapping snares on “Encore”, but only succeeds in making these songs sound even cheesier than before.

On the whole, Danger Mouse’s production sounds razor-thin. He does employ a decent amount of additional instrumentation, including enveloping synths, twinkling pianos, soaring female vocals, delicate 90333667string arrangements, and even a trumpet solo on “The Hunter”. But replacement guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar stylings take a backseat to the new instrumentation. His cowardly, sparse playing pales in
comparison to John Frusciante’s thick, silky tone that once filled out the Chili Pepper flavor. The band just sounds empty and hollow without prominent guitars. Even when Klinghoffer attempts to drive songs with guitar, like on the moderately funky “We Turn Red”, his riffing is so simplistic and spineless it makes me want to cry. Grow a pair, Klinghoffer!

Despite my overall dissatisfaction with The Getaway’s sound, RHCP manages to come through with at least a few sonically pleasing moments. “The Longest Wave” is definitely the record’s best cut, because it harkens back to classic Chili Pepper ballads like “Californication” and “Under the Bridge”, with tender guitar leads, hushed yet explosive vocals that Kiedis can manage, and no extraneous instrumentation. Additionally, I enjoyed the sleek, spacey Daft Punk-esque groove that accompanies Kiedis on “Go Robot”.

“Dreams of a Samurai” is another instrumental win for RHCP. I love female vocal solo in the intro reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”, leading into a slinky bass line in the verses. The song eventually erupts into a fury of noisy drum fills, blaring bass distortion, slimy wah-wah guitar, and epic backing vocals.

Lyrically, The Getaway is one of the Chili Peppers’ darkest releases. Kiedis tackles his heartbreak with a disturbing focus on mortality and death, but he often treads a fine line between beautifully somber poetry and cheesy, vague clichés. Its difficult to overlook lines like “Say goodbye my love/I can see it in your soul/Thought that I could make RHCP1you whole” from “Goodbye Angels”, but stanzas such as the following from “Feasting on the Flowers” help:  “Feasting on the flowers so fast and young/It’s a light so bright that I bite my tongue/The next dimension, show me in”. When Kiedis does decide to take on the role of the silly, nonsensical wordsmith we are used to, the attempts fall flat within the record’s somber context.

Overall, The Getaway is the Chili Peppers’ weakest effort in a few decades. The record has no true energetic or emotional appeal; I feel nothing when I listen to one boring ballad after the other. It’s exceedingly bland, unpolished, corny, and, just as every band besides RHCP was in the 90s, joyless.

Overall: D+

Instrumentation/Production: D+

Lyrics: C

Melody/Hook: D

Performance: D-

Mixing: D+

Highlights: The Longest Wave, The Getaway, Dark Necessities, Dreams of a Samurai, Go Robot

Key Lyrics:

“You don’t know my mind/You don’t know my kind/Dark necessities are part of my design” from “Dark Necessities”

Maybe you’re my last love/Maybe you’re my first/Just another way to play inside the universe” from “The Longest Wave”

“Trinidad’s got it bad for Tobago” from “We Turn Red”

“Openly defective is the lover you elected and/A portrait she was bound to portray” from “Sick Love”

You will find your flow when you go robot/I want to thank you and spank you upon your silver skin/Robots don’t care where I’ve been/You’ve got to choose it to use it, so let me plug it in/Robots are my next of kin” from “Go Robot”

“Am I on the right side of the left side of your brain?” from “Detroit”

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