The Getaway – Album Review

Getaway

Indeed, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with brand new album The Getaway, their first major release since 2011’s I’m With You.

The latter may have been a decent album but the departure of John Frusciante was felt right away as a lot of the songs seemed like they had been tailored to the guitarist’s particular style so let’s hope this new effort gives replacement Josh Klinghoffer a fair shot.

The opener is title track “The Getaway” and it’s a funky slow-burn which builds to an atmospheric bridge and chorus. It’s never quite as catchy as it should be but it works and it’s an enjoyable lead-up to what comes next plus the final few verses are so good they leave you wanting more.

Then comes the first single “Dark Necessities” which cements the dancier, more Summer-friendly elements foreshadowed by the opening track with claps marking the beat, some excellent bass work by Flea and a reflective, memorable chorus. It’s everything you’d want and expect from a RHCP single: commercial yet catchy and ultimately irresistible. The solid piano work throughout helps give the track a pensive mood and Klinghoffer gets a simple yet effective and welcome solo near the end showcasing his own grungier sound.

Chad Smith opens “We Turn Red” with a thumping beat and the song soon reveals itself to be a good old-fashioned rap-style RHCP track with a genuinely pretty melody kicking in every so often. It evokes the likes of “Right On Time” or “All Around The World” in that it’s so disjointed it probably shouldn’t work but it totally does.

With “The Longest Wave”, Josh Klinghoffer finally gets the chance to show he’s not only nailed that core RHCP sound but he can handle softer, more melodic songs. The track itself is a ballad with an ambitious scale and although it’s not the most memorable one on the album, it’s still enjoyable. “Goodbye Angels” has a terrific build-up which should kick butt live and open gigs with a bang. Overuse of the gimmicky “‘ey-yo” line aside, it’s a solid track with some very good guitar and bass work, both of which really come into play during a thrilling extended dual solo ending the song with an appropriate jolt.

Next up is “Sick Love” and that one feels like a track you’d probably find on By The Way with added claps and an upbeat chorus. Josh Klinghoffer once again gets a short solo and it fits in well with the otherwise softer vibe and if you’re wondering who’s playing the piano, you’ll be surprised to learn it’s none other than Elton John. “Go Robot” instantly delivers one of the best bass-lines on the album and although the main verses kinda fizzle out, the solid chorus saves the song from being just a glorified instrumental and, with the help of that clappy beat and some nifty pieces of electro makes it a fun, worthy little track.

“Feasting On The Flowers” doesn’t give much for Anthony Kiedis to sink his teeth into at first but the chorus is creative enough to flesh the song out gradually as it develops into a dancy rag-time and a fun R&B tune. This leads us to “Detroit”, a more experimental track with yet another brilliant bass-line at its heart. The verses and the bridge are the real heroes here as the chorus, which could have worked in a Foo Fighters song maybe, leaves a lot to be desired.

The next track is “This Ticonderoga” and this one should please fans of the band’s rockier work as Klinghoffer gets to proudly grunge-out and mark the rhythm with short scratchy outbursts. By this point, you can really tell that the band has adapted to its new guitarist’s style and wrote those new tracks with this in mind. There’s a more melodic part to the song which also works really well.

“Encore” is not so much an encore as it is one of the catchiest, most melodically rich tracks on the album. It’s just one hell of a pretty song and it manages to not only keep those claps and that Summer feel but deliver a bittersweet vibe as well. Great work all around on that one: maybe the best of the bunch.

“The Hunter” is a slower, bluesier piano-led track with an overall 70’s mood. It’s not very catchy but it’s the Red Hots trying something different both vocally and musically, which is a good thing. It’s promising to see that the band is ready to experiment a little more with songs that may not sell loads of singles but bring something new and unexpected to the table nevertheless.

Finally, we have “Dreams Of A Samurai”, which opens with a piano and vocal choirs before turning into a rockier RHCP track. The song may be a bit all over-the-place but it works as a conclusion cleverly encompassing everything that made this album tick into an almost improvisational jazzy rock tune.

The Getaway does a lot of things right: the album uses Josh Klinghoffer correctly and, although it does provide some safer, more radio-friendly Summer singles, it’s also not afraid to experiment a bit and try some crazier ideas now and then, which is refreshing.

It doesn’t all pay off, most of the songs aren’t too catchy, but there’s something to be said about not having Chad Smith hammer down the same beat in every song like he did in Stadium Arcadium, giving the new guitarist a proper chance and letting Flea run wild with some of his best work in years. You can feel the teamwork that went into making this album and that makes for some good music for sure.

It’s 3 Red Hot Chili Fellas for The Getaway.

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It’s not vintage RHCP but still an enjoyable effort regardless.

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Let Go – Album Review

Let Go

Long before Canada “graced” us with the pop sensation that is Justin Bieber, we got Avril Lavigne and her debut album Let Go, which was a big hit when it was released back in 2002.

Now, whether you like the artist or not, that particular album’s success was unavoidable back in the day. Several singles were released from it and many songs lured their way into many movies which came out around the same time from Wimbledon to The Medallion, Just Married (all timeless classics, I’m sure you’ve noticed) and more than one episode of Smallville, of course.

Having not listened to anything Lavigne has released since this particular album, except for that kinda annoying Alice In Wonderland song of hers, I thought I’d go back and set the record straight about Let Go: was it deserving of its success or just as irritating as many of us remember it to be?

“Losing Grip” is the opening song and, surprisingly, it’s somewhat entertaining and sufficiently rebellious (in a decidedly emo kind of way) to warrant a listen if you’re into that type of thing, though it stagnates a tad. It is followed by popular hit “Complicated” and, indeed, it sounds just as manufactured, whiny and annoyingly catchy as it always did. It’s basic teen pop fare but it does have an adorably naive charm to it. Besides, it prompted one of my favourite Weird Al Yankovic outings! Listening to the song now, what mostly stands out is its rather weird rhyming. Somehow Lavigne manages to rhyme “unannounced” with “somethin’ else” and “back” with “relax”…

I guess that’s an achievement in itself!

Another memorable single from the album is “Sk8er Boi”, which is just as obnoxious as its stupidly spelt title suggests. The song tells a story, a thoroughly petty story about some girl jealously and bitterly boasting about getting together with some guy. It’s completely juvenile and about a thousand times tamer than it thinks it is but hell, it’s catchy so it did ridiculously well at the time. As did ballad “I’m With You”, which may be corny as hell, whiny as hell and repetitive but which still works as a guilty pleasure. It’s got an admittedly nice melody and, although its lyrics come off as needy and weak, it’s cute enough to pull it off.

You’ve got a few acoustic efforts on the album, there to show Lavigne’s versatility and show off her singing chops, of course. One of them is “Mobile”, which opens kinda like “Sweet Home Alabama” and has a similar rhythm to it. Its verses aren’t too bad but that chorus really has no real lead up to it and it feels tacked-on, like it doesn’t belong to that specific song somehow. Another acoustic track is ballad “Tomorrow” which, apart from having pretty enough verses, mostly sounds like a soporific effort from The Corrs but much less vibrant.

“Unwanted” is the sixth song on the album and arguably has the best chorus of the bunch in that it could almost pass for rock. Of course the song needed to be less over-produced, much heavier and needed more anger than angst but, as a whole, it’s not too bad. It’s really in the second half of the album that we get some instantly forgettable tracks and some just plain not-very-good ones. “Things I’ll Never Say” is relatively inoffensive and has a nice enough melody but it’s a light, purely poppy effort. As for its follow-up “My World”, it tells another uninteresting story, this time about growing up in a small town. It’s whiny, juvenile and altogether lacks bite.

But that’s nothing compared to the eleventh track, “Nobody’s Fool”, where Lavigne attempts a rap. The delivery is expectedly clunky, the song’s subject is too tame and the lyrics are frankly awful. An inventive beat just about saves this one from being completely unlistenable. Speaking of tame subjects, the next song, “Too Much To Ask”, is yet another “I’m lonely” song where Lavigne complains that someone didn’t call her when they said they would. Well boo-friggin’-hoo! It’s altogether forgettable.

Finally, we have “Anything But Ordinary” and “Naked”, which closes the album. The former is a solid, if simplistic, pop track with a catchy chorus. It’s, again, emo-friendly, but it works and is, at least, memorable. “Naked” is also a more melancholic, moodier pop tune. It starts off being rather effective but suffers, like many songs on the album, from an anti-climactic chorus.

Let Go is an uneven album to say the least, parts of it are cheesy, blatantly commercial and completely forgettable while other parts of it are devilishly catchy and decent enough, for that genre, of course. It definitely doesn’t deserve all the praise it received, going straight to number 1 in some countries, receiving nominations at the Grammys and even winning several awards.

That said, I don’t… hate it.

Sure it’s irritating and weak here and there but, as a whole, you can kinda tell why it did so well. Lavigne making harmless, easily hummable, mostly fun songs with lyrics teens can relate to. I think the album could have done minus at least three of its songs and would have appealed to more people had its songs told more involving stories and had its lyrics and choruses been less naive but, as it stands, it’s very much of its time and designed for a particular audience.

For what it is, it works and, as far as teen pop is concerned, I’ve heard far, FAR worse.

That’s 3 Sk8er Bois out of 5 for Avril Lavigne’s opus.

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I’m With You – Album Review

RHCP
No less than 5 years after their last release, The Red Hot Chili Peppers came back with a new album, I’m With You, which helped satisfy hungry fans.

But how did the album fare minus long-time guitarist John Frusciante, who officially left the band back in 2009?


Throughout the years, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have undergone changes and reinventions aplenty whilst always keeping their own brand of funky rock perfectly intact. The biggest switch came in 1999 with the release of hit album Californication which showed the band in a darker, more melancholic light. This meant the usual anarchic fast-paced funkiness increasingly gave way to an altogether more atmospheric and melodic approach. This was clearly the beginning of a new era for the band. The next album, By The Way, really made the most of Frusciante’s creativity and excelled especially with some of the best, most nostalgic ballads the band ever attempted. The album showed real heart and maturity but it was a love it or hate it affair proving too lyrical for some. Generally though, it was another hit.


Then came double-whammy Stadium Arcadium which offered not one but two discs shock full of red hot goodies. But, although the double album was a good enough listen on the whole, it just didn’t seem to add much to the band’s new style and felt perhaps a little too mellow with both discs sounding pretty similar to each other in terms of tone. It was good music but the songs relied too much on their catchy choruses and with discs grandly entitled Mars and Jupiter it all felt a tad underwhelming. Fans knew the band could do better.


So let’s talk about the follow up: I’m With You. The initial disappointment of John Frusciante’s departure aside, this could have potentially been a good thing for the band and given the guys a chance to reinvent themselves once more into something fitting the screeching swagger of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Something darker, edgier perhaps? Actually, even the old, iconic Red Hot Chili Peppers logo made an appearance in the run-up to the album’s release.


First single “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” showed promising signs of a new, perhaps grungier direction with Klinghoffer’s fresh sound adding welcome attitude to a song which, besides feeling perhaps a tiny bit too long, was good enough to generate a lot of interest and high hopes for the new album.

It is surprising, then, that after all these changes taking place over the course of 5 whole years, that I’m With You doesn’t feel more different and groundbreaking than it does. Listening to it, there’s definitely some great Peppers songs there with the likes of “Monarchy Of Roses” and “Did I Let You Know” proving to be more than worthy additions on a par with some of their best work on By The Way.


There’s also a more experimental feel to the whole thing with a lot more piano (played by both Flea and Klinghoffer), some trumpets, a country-style song (“Happiness Loves Company”) and even a rap. That said, the band never seems ready to take a huge experimental leap and, instead of a complete reboot, we get a mild re-tweaking of their now very familiar style introduced back in 1999.

Klinghoffer does extremely well to fit in but songs like “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” or “Police Station” beg for Frusciante’s backing vocals. Aside from being one of the best, most creative guitar players out there, it should be noted that Frusciante is also a great vocalist and his unique voice has elevated numerous songs on By The Way and Stadium Arcadium to above average status.

A song like “Brendan’s Death Song”, for example, lacks some of the emotional punch that Frusciante could have no doubt brought to it. For fans of the man’s solo albums, it’s a given that his voice as well as his music were a key factor of the band’s latest approach. So yes, Klinghoffer is a perfectly fine presence in I’m With You and does a great job but Frusciante is nevertheless missed throughout.


I’m With You could have been so much more fun. Songs like “Look Around” or “Ethiopia” do very well to generate some of the old Peppers “grooves” but the album still has a mellow feel to it which gives it a familiarity we could have probably done without just this once. All that said, no one writes a catchy chorus like these guys and no matter how cryptically the songs begin you can be sure you’ll be mumbling all these choruses to yourself throughout the day regardless of how good the songs actually are.


Barring a couple of non-events, I’m With You is a fine album: a mix of more of the same and some hit-and-miss experiments (“Dance, Dance, Dance”) with a couple of golden nuggets here and there. It’s uneven stuff but fans and non-fans alike should enjoy it regardless.


We’ll have to wait either for John Frusciante’s return or for the band to give Josh Klinghoffer more freedom to bring the edge back, it seems, if we’re going to get the fresh re-invention we were promised. For now though, I’m With You is a fair one to check out, it won’t blow you away but just be happy the band made it through and are back in business.

Besides, 3 Red Hot Chili Fellas out of 5 ain’t half bad.
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