Red Hot Chilis Blast Back With Guitar Orgies, Ugly Fly: Review

The cover art for the CD "I'm With You" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Released in Aug. 2011, it is the band's first since "Stadium Arcadium" in 2006. Source: Warner Brothers via Bloomberg

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are in the running for the most repulsive album cover of all time.

“I’m With You,” which started streaming overnight, shows a hairy housefly sitting on a drug tablet. The image, by Damien Hirst, is about as inviting as the disgusting “Infest” by Papa Roach.

Fortunately, the music is more appealing. With their 10th studio album, the Californians can expect to add to their tally of 65 million records sold.

The story so far: the Chilis start in 1983 with a sense of stripped-down punk fun. They have a habit of appearing on stage wearing not a lot, except strategically placed socks.

Acclaim and seriousness grow with “Californication” and “By the Way,” ending in 2006’s bloated “Stadium Arcadium.”

The talented guitarist John Frusciante, whose solos add a kick to the Peppers’ best work, quits in 2009 and is replaced by Josh Klinghoffer. The quartet hails the latest release, produced by Rick Rubin, as the work of a new unit.

Well, not quite. Much of the old trademark sound is still there: tight bass lines by Flea, complex drum fills from Chad Smith, knowing vocals by Anthony Kiedis.

There’s a lot of variety, from the rocking “Monarchy of Roses” to the mourning “Brendan’s Death Song” and the bouncy single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.”

After a few plays, it all sounds underwhelming. Maybe these tattooed wrinklies are mellowing as they hover near 50. There are a few garage-band guitar orgies, though this is a tightly edited set with scant fat.

At least the title was a prudent choice: Kiedis said the recording almost was called “Dr. Johnny Skinz’s Disproportionately Rambunctious Polar Express Machine-Head,” based on a drug experience.

Keep taking the pills, guys, just not the one on the cover.

Rating: ***½.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

The CD will be released on Aug. 29 on Warner Bros. Download fees vary across services.


(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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