Where To Start With... Red Hot Chili Peppers
Los Angeles funk-rock legends the Red Hot Chili Peppers release their 11th studio album, The Getaway, this week, but if it wasn't for an ill-fated snowboarding trip in 2015, this could have been a very different record from the one we're getting.
Work had commenced on a follow-up to their previous long-player I'm With You in 2014 and Anthony Kiedis said at the time that the band had written 'between 20-30' songs for the new album, but then he and bassist Flea embarked on a snowboarding trip to Montana where Flea broke his arm in five places and had to undergo surgery, followed by a lengthy six-month rehabilitation during which the bass player basically had to re-learn his instrument.
The resulting downtime prompted a rethink about what the band wanted from their next record and after 25 years of working with Rick Rubin, who has produced every one of their albums since 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band decided a fresh approach was needed and instead drafted in Brian 'Danger Mouse' Burton.
Burton's involvement came with one condition: ditch the songs you've already worked on and start again in the studio. The band were reluctant at first, but ultimately decided to put their trust in Burton's approach and the resulting album is something of a departure from the trademark Chili Peppers sound. Flea revealed in a recent interview with Rolling Stone that the producer encouraged the band to ditch their traditional approach of jamming out songs in favour of layering instruments over the drum tracks one at a time. They were hesitant, but if the band were looking to break up their usual routine and create something different, it's an approach that seems to have worked.
Musically speaking, The Getaway still sounds like the Chilis, so fans needn't worry too much, but from the opening seconds of the title track it's evident something is a little different. Josh Klinghoffer really establishes his own style here, having replaced John Frusciante back in 2009, but even though he played on I'm With You, at that time the band hadn't toured extensively with their new guitarist and it really feels as though he's settled in here.
Highlights include the fun, funky 'Go Robot' – probably the most Chili-esque song on the record – as well as the pounding 'We Turn Red' and the more melancholy 'Dark Necessities'. Much of Anthony Kiedis' lyrical content here addresses the breakdown of a relationship and while this isn't expressed in as raw a manner as, say, Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, there are still traces of blood on the tracks here and there, adding to the dark, brooding undercurrent present on the new album.
The album arrives in stores today (you can preview and purchase it at the top-right of this page) and you can hear 'The Getaway in its entirety below. Beneath that we've picked five career highlights for those unfamiliar with the full extent of the Chilis' back catalogue...
'Give It Away'
Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the album that transformed the Red Hot Chili Peppers from funk-rock also-rans into a near-permanent fixture on the charts and perhaps more than any other track, 'Give It Away' represents the perfection of their style, condensed into three and a half perfectly funky minutes. It earned the band a bunch of Grammy nominations, including a win for 'Best Rock Vocal Performance'.
'Under The Bridge'
As much as we wanted to try and pick no more than one song from each of the Chilis' albums, we could hardly leave out 'Under the Bridge'. An ode to heroin addiction, the song established guitarist John Frusciante as one of the band's most creative forces and the song's crossover success proved that there was more to the band than funk-rock jamming and shouty lyrics.
After Frusciante's struggles with the band's sudden success and rising tensions between him and Kiedis, the guitarist abruptly quit the band and was replaced by former Jane's Addiction axeman Dave Navarro. The latter only appearred on one album, 1995's One Hot Minute, but there were a few gems on there and 'Areroplane' is the best of the bunch.
The return of John Frusciante heralded a new era of creative and commercial success for the band and Californication would become the Chilis' biggest-selling album to date, yielding several hits including the title track and this little number, which is the perfect illustration of why Frusciante's guitar playing was such a key component to their sound for so many years.
Or final pick is this beauty from the band's 2002 album By The Way. If you were to distill the essence of everything the band is about into one track, it would be this. A glorious slice of funk rock that stands up against their best work.