Red Hot Chili Peppers is a band which has been on and off my playlist ever since I was around fourteen. Not understanding anything didn’t stop me from grooving to their absolutely addictive tunes and the more I grew up, the more they grew on me.
There is one album, however, that managed to slip away from my radar for reasons unknown. I dived into I’m With You last week and I have been replaying it for a while each time enjoying a different aspect of the Peppers 2011 masterpiece.
A truly iconic band
Red Hot Chili Peppers have one of a kind magic around them (I might have said this for other bands but those guys are the real deal).
The way Anthony Kiedis’ out-of-this-world vocals fit into the crazy and absolutely uncontrollable guitar riffs of Josh Klinghoffer, Chad Smiths perfectly timed drums, and the trippy bass solos by the one and only Flea is a combination which you won’t see anywhere else.
Live performances are even more amazing to observe as the band can never stay still (or keep their shirts on) when performing. Emotion and passion are overflowing from each and every member and the show is more of a spectacle than a music concert.
Yes, indeed, here is my proof!
The band has been around since 1983 and they have rightfully gained their spot in the hall of fame of rock music forever. Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the very few old-school formations that managed to stay on top by adapting to modern music trends and, at the same time, preserving the sound they were known for since the very start.
Very subtle additions of new age elements are present in their latest releases – just enough so that they don’t become outdated and stuck in the past. However, their core is still there as strong as it has ever been.
The unmistakable solos, soul-touching bass, and electrifying guitars making people get groovy are things which might as well never leave the band.
Feelings of nostalgia overflow when I hear the unmistakable tunes of Snow (Hey Oh), Charlie, By The Way, or Californication – some of the first songs I ever heard. I literally get goosebumps (the good ones) when I hear the intro of any of those tracks and I frequently revisit the classic Stadium Arcadium, Californication as well as the latest The Getaway (an equally great record).
The one album in that somehow slipped away is I’m With You – one iconic record marking a notable change in the music of the Peppers and the line-up we would be seeing in the future.
It was the first one to be released after the two-year break the band took from the Red Hot Chili Peppers project and the first with Josh Klinghoffer as a lead guitarist. I’m With You easily turns into the next addition to the remarkable discography of the band.
Listening to the band’s tenth album is a different experience when you compare it to their other records. There is a shift which is expected considering the two-year break and the fresh approach that Flea and Anthony initiated. Their love for music and Red Hot Chili Peppers is imprinted on the entire record.
For me, the biggest thing during the time off, and what really made me want to continue doing the band, specifically after John decided he didn’t want to continue, was I just realized, Anthony, man, he’s my brother, I love him so much, and we started this band when we were kids. I wanted to keep that going, I never want to let that go.
I’m With You is a mix of easy-going groovy energy boosts and some serious, hard-hitting emotional pieces. The record encompasses a good balance of different types of songs all united under the classic trademark sound of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also subtly unveils a concept revolving around faith and mortality – some songs have it full-power while others only slightly hint about it.
The album starts with a song of the first type – an explosive energy boost with funky instrumental solos mixing old-school punk-rock with modern alternative sound.
The track easily flows into Factory of Faith – a crazy intro by Flea quickly picked up by Anthony’s mesmerizing vocals showcasing what the album is about while taking a look back in time and appreciating life.
As I mentioned there are a few tracks on I’m With You which stray away from the energizing funky ones. The first one we encounter is Brendan’s Death Song – a track with a sad story behind it.
By listening to song number three you can feel it is transmitting a combination of emotions including the grieving of a loss, appreciation of life, and ever-lasting love. The melancholic mellow mid-tempo instrumentals contribute to this effect and the beautiful lyrics by Anthony emit respect and contemplation.
The song was written for Brendan Mullen – one of the biggest contributors to the L.A punk scene in the 90s as well as a life-long friend of the Peppers. The news of his passing struck the band on the very first day of their reunion and session for I’m With You and the song is a result of them expressing emotions via the instruments.
Police Station – the 11th track on the album holds a similar tone. Highly impactful (the strongest one on the album for me) the song takes things a level higher with Anthony’s illustrative storytelling.
During the course of the song, the frontman explains how he runs into different old friends in his home town and contemplates on the changes he sees.
People he used to be extremely close to and who he has deep personal connections to have been struck by life and completely changed, mostly (but not only) for the worse. Anthony reminiscences about the “Golden Years” and his memories over moody sentimental instrumentals featuring more piano than any other song on the record.
It hits hard and makes you think about your own life and how the people you used to be close to have changed, how life unavoidably happened.
Even You Brutus and Meet Me At The Corner stick to the intense emotional levels but have a different thematic.
The first song uses Anthony’s supreme storytelling to guide us through a tale with a tragic ending extracted directly from his personal experience. The lyrics of the song are highly consuming but the incredible instrumentals elevate it additionally.
The case with Meet Me At The Corner is quite similar – another engaging and real story told with the support of effective and matching melodies. However, this time the focus is different and Anthony expresses gratitude mixed with slight regret for the turn of events instead of pain and anger. The song is simply beautiful and touching.
The further you get into the tracklist of the album the more you realize how diverse it actually is. Some songs rely on the effective funky vibes and trippy mind-f*cking bass solos leaving lyrics abstract and letting the melody speak for itself.
Such is the case with Ethiopia which was inspired by the band’s musical trip to… Ethiopia.
Annie Wants A Baby is another song which uses the funky punk vibes to dictate the tone and switch it between sad and uplifting several times. It is one of those songs which the band wrote for an actual person with an actual story (reminding of Charlie, Dani California, etc.) and it once again hits hard.
I’m With You doesn’t lack the adventurous and sexually-oriented songs as well. The Adventures of Raindance Maggie tells another one of the insane stories in the book of the Peppers and has one of the most memorable and iconic melodies the band has produced.
Lively and highly energizing the song is an adventure itself.
Goodbye Hooray fits the same category but also features a contrast between the festive feel and not-so-festive lyrics while Did I Let You Know strikes with an exotic vibe and irresistible charm.
Getting to the most important type of songs on the album – the ones emitting faith, acceptance, and strength.
Look Around is one of those empowering songs combing explosive energy and asking listeners to stop for a while and reflect on their life journey so far.
Everyone needs it once in a while and the song demonstrates it beautifully bringing back the vibes of Factory of Faith in a spectacular way.
Happiness Loves Company is another great reminder before we reach the culmination and main message of I’m With You. The song encourages appreciation and love for life as well as focusing on the positive more often in an extremely effective way only the Red Hot Chili Peppers can achieve.
The final track on the album is probably the most important one. Dance, Dance, Dance is an incredible finishing touch to I’m With You executed flawlessly – a powerful reminder reassuring listeners that everything will be okay in the end.
The song engulfs you with inspiration and comfort with its effective melodies and absolutely on-point truths which we often forget. It’s goot to replay this one a few times a week at least.
Give yourself a chance to find a way
The holiness for free is here to stay
I’m With You breathes in a fresh new life into the band and once again proves their untamable love for music.
The unmistakable instrumentals and irresistible intros are not missing from even one song on the record. Each of them will get stuck in your mind and turn into one of those classics you will recognize anywhere just be hearing a few seconds of the intro.
The sync and dynamics of the band are remarkable and no one can deny the respect the band deserves for reaching such a high level of unity.
Uniting the classic rock music feel and contemporary elements I’m With You (and Red Hot Chili Peppers themselves) is an explosive burst of important reminders, personal stories, and highest quality rock music. Don’t miss out.