By Brian Ives
This week (June 17), the Red Hot Chili Peppers release The Getaway: it’s their first album since 2011’s I’m With You. More significantly, perhaps, is that it’s their first album since 1989 that isn’t produced by Rick Rubin.
This time around, they’re trying something new, and to that end, they hired Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), who has also produced the Black Keys, Gorillaz, U2 and Norah Jones, and who is a member of Gnarls Barkley (with Cee Lo Green) and Broken Bells (with James Mercer of the Shins).
While Rubin has always had more of a “set up the instruments and play” approach, Burton comes from a more sample-heavy background (he first got famous when he produced The Grey Album: a mashup of Jay Z’s The Black Album and the Beatles’ “White Album”). And from the first moments on the record, it’s clear that this is a very different Chili Peppers record: you can’t quite tell if the first thing you hear is a hi-hat, a hi-hat sample from a drum machine, or someone mimicking a hi-hat. About a minute later, there’s a synth loop, and backing vocals courtesy of Anna Waronker (you may remember her from ’90s alt-rock band that dog.).
Suffice to say that it’s a very different album from the Chili Peppers. We advise checking out the whole album, but if you want to sample just a few tracks, here are five of the best on the album.
“The Getaway”: As mentioned, the leadoff track announces within seconds that this is a sonic departure for the band. Besides the aforementioned disco-influenced hi-hat, the synths (played by Danger Mouse) and the vocals by Warronker, it’s also notable for guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s unexpected Cure-influenced guitar playing, and also his sweet backing vocals that recall those of his predecessor, John Frusciante. The drum machine shows up later in the song, spitting out old-school hip-hop hand-claps.
“Sick Love”: This mellow-funk jam wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a ’70s soul and R&B station. Part of the melody seems to recall “Bennie an the Jets,” but that’s not the only reason why the song has an Elton John-ish vibe: the Peppers co-wrote it with Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin, and Sir Elton himself plays piano on the song.
“The Hunter”: You want different? This is an actual Red Hot Chili Peppers song that features a bassist other than Flea (according to a recent interview with Chad Smith). On this mellow funk tune, Josh Klinghoffer handles bass, while Flea plays trumpet. But the thing that stands out is Anthony Kiedis’s vocals, where he sings, “Even though you raised me I will never be your father/King of each and every Sunset Marquis/Even though you’re crazy you will never be a bother/You’re my Old Man In the Sea.”
“Detroit”: This one harkens back to the band’s classic sound; it’s built around a heavy funk guitar riff. Both Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith are from Michigan, so perhaps that was what inspired the lyrics. “The Stooges and J Dilla, yeah, they tore this town apart,” Kiedis sings, paying tribute to two of the city’s many amazing musical exports, and two likely influences on the album.
“This Ticonderoga” One of the most bonkers songs in the Chili Peppers catalog, it starts out with an intense riff, which recalls Primus’s “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver,” and then goes into a quiet, piano-driven interlude, and that’s when the string section comes in. The song, which seems to have some autobiographical lyrics, gets extra points for the line, “I call my best friend Flea!” Awwww.