Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

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With a new producer and guitarist who has finally found his footing, The Getaway is one of Red Hot Chili Peppers' most advantageous and successful records yet.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers are known for their frantic aesthetic. All you need to do is watch the music videos for ‘Give It Away’ from 1996’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Stadium Arcadium’s ‘Dani California’ of 2006 to instantly understand the Chilis aura. Their recent release, however, steps back from this. It’s not too far – you can definitely feel its presence – but there’s something sitting within the depths of The Getaway that the Chilis definitely haven’t touched upon before until now.

Take the lead single, ‘Dark Necessities.’ It’s by far one of the bands most experimental singles to date, despite having the blueprint of Red Hot Chili Peppers in place: Flea’s iconic bass line, the precision drumming of Chad Smith, a guitar solo from Josh Klinghoffer, and Anthony Kiedis’ instantly recognizable vocal pattern. Yet, it has piano. It has haunting backing vocals and dark, revealing lyrics. It has a strange structure. At first, it doesn’t sound like the Chilis until your mind meshes all these components together and comes to the realisation.

That’s the style that the rest of The Getaway follows. It both sounds like and doesn’t sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers. It provides endless amounts of variety – the songs are seemingly connected, however it doesn’t rely on a particular lyrical or musical theme. The band delves right into crafting their art with this record, doing so in innovative new ways unique to them. ‘Detroit’ and ‘This Ticonderoga’ are extremely surprising to hear for the first time, as both are songs that you wouldn’t necessarily believe to be songs that the Chilis would produce. Both are extremely heavy – something that Red Hot Chili Peppers doesn’t necessarily tend to focus on – and are reminiscent of other alternative bands like Queens of the Stone Age, especially the opening of ‘This Ticonderoga.’

The Getaway also marks the departure of long-time collaborator Rick Rubin, who has produced their records since 1989’s Mother’s Milk, ending arguably the most successful portion of the Chilis’ career. Instead, Danger Mouse has been let loose, and the new production he provides is one of the prevailing reasons why The Getaway sounds so different and separate to the rest of the band’s discography. Smith mentioned in a recent radio interview that the band loves Rubin, but wanted to work with someone different as it was important to change producers and be inspired in a different way. That inspiration is definitely heard throughout The Getaway, unfurling a new dimension of Red Hot Chili Peppers music.

You can hear this evidently from the record’s mix, led by Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich, where the rhythm section is definitely at the forefront. This is the first Chilis record where I’ve been able to hear how the record focuses vehemently on both Flea and Smith. The mix and Danger Mouse’s production further strengthens the point that different producers emphasise different aspects of the band that they’re able to hear, unique to themselves. That uniqueness transcends through the music into a completely different listening experience.

I am completely in awe of this record, but one of its major problems during the run up – and subsequent release – is that the last we heard from Red Hot Chili Peppers was back in 2011 with I’m With You, the first record after guitarist John Frusciante’s departure. The fans had four years to wait for The Getaway, which you’d expect would be long enough to accommodate the differences between Frusciante and Klinghoffer, but the longing for Frusciante is still there. Lest we not forget that he voluntarily left the band. Red Hot Chili Peppers wasn’t going to cease its existence because a guitarist voluntarily left. The band lives and breathes music, so they found a new guitarist who is equally as talented – if not more in his own, unique way. He’s different. He isn’t John. It’s a hurdle that shouldn’t be hard to get over.

Personally, I haven’t listened to a Chilis record on repeat as I have The Getaway since I first discovered them. The band hasn’t reinvented itself at all with this record, instead further building upon their foundations, adding the enhancements of a new producer, introduces a new aesthetic, and shown off a guitarist that has firmly found his footing following his introduction to it four years ago. It’s hard to even fit this album into one genre. You’ve got the rap-rock funk of ‘We Turn Red,’ the melancholic ‘Dark Necessities,’ the Prince and Daft Punk influences on ‘Go Robot,’ the ‘Scar Tissue’-esque ‘Encore,’ and the epic ‘Dreams of a Samurai’ as its closer.

When I sit and listen to the record, I close my eyes and it creates one of those weird, trippy animations that you used to get on Windows Media Player way back when. It turns more into a tie-dye design, with all the songs presenting themselves as different colours but merging seamlessly into one. For sure, The Getaway is a pure Red Hot Chili Peppers record, however it’s a side we haven’t seen from them in a while.

The Getaway is out now via Warner

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A film student stuck in a 90s timewarp of FBI agents, UFOs, conspiracy theories, alternative rock and grunge.

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