It’s not fair to expect a band to never evolve or change, especially if a key member namely the guitarist leaves. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. But that said, it’s not the same band. It just isn’t. And wistfully wishing I’m With You (Warner Bros.) was a followup to Blood Sugar Sex Magik (how the hell could that be 20 years ago?!) won’t do any good. The void left by the departure of John Frusciante has caused the band to take a real hit in terms of their sound. Something is missing and it’s not technical ability. It may just be a lack of chemistry or an adjustment period being played out on their tenth studio album release.
There is at times an unfortunate clashing quality here. “Look Around” shows Kiedis experimenting and the stream-of-consciousness bawdy-rapping-into-emoting he’s always seemed born to do is innovative as always but excepting some forays into great melody change-ups and wandering harmonies the song falls a bit flat. “Adventures of Raindance Maggie” swirls around in an aural ombre pattern of new wave, rock and Fleastyle bass but there is a harshness here that no amount of cowbell however funky and offbeat can conceal.
The rhythm section is often I’m With You‘s saving grace. Flea and drummer Chad Smith form the one sturdy port this album can cling to. His bass never seems to falter- always tight, always dead on point. “Police Station” happily reveals some of the iconoclastic bedrock that has made RHCP such an unusual solid and popular band, successful on the steam o their own offbeat selves. When Kiedis is in smooth- croon mode and the music follows suit, no one can touch him when he remembers a tragic woman: “I saw you on the back page of some free press yesterday/ The driftwood in your eyes said nothing short of love for pay.” “Did I Let You Know” has a harder sound but retains the part of RHCP’s soul that I instantly recognize.
Things just need to get sorted out a bit here, but otherwise these guys are too good to be held down long.