RHCP’s iconic bassist Flea recently declared rock music to be basically dead, apart from themselves and Pearl Jam, who apparently remain “relevant bands that come with real energy”.
With that in mind, it's not hard to imagine that “relevancy” was a key concept during the recording sessions for The Getaway, the band’s first effort since I’m With You struggled - in relative terms, of course - to make a case for a post-Frusciante Chilis back in 2011. You’re one of the world’s biggest bands, long shorn of youthful, “sock on cock” fireworks and stripped your talismanic guitarist and creative hub… How do you convince the world that it still needs RHCP in 2016?
The most eye-catching response to that question is the ditching of long-time collaborator Rick Rubin, with whom that band had worked since 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik (still their explosive peak), to bring in Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton on production duties and Nigel “Radiohead” Godrich behind the mixing desk. It’s a bold declaration of intent to shake things up, and at first it seems like a slam-dunk success.
“The Getaway” is a simmering, spacey, melodically refreshing delight that transcends its predictable California references to become the most thrilling Chilis opener since “By The Way”. The opening 30 seconds of “Dark Necessities” is “Can’t Stop” passed through a Massive Attack filter and every bit as gripping as that sounds, developing confidently into a terrific lead single. “Go Robot” is a tremendous slice of snake-like funk where Burton’s (Mouse’s?) pop flourishes act in service of the band’s natural chemistry, adding some much needed seasoning.
The album’s other success story is Josh Klinghoffer, who steps out of Frusciante’s shadow to offer up a range of considered guitar parts showcasing technique, variety and verve. A less flashy player than his predecessor, his contributions nonetheless form the textural and melodic spine of the album. Fine job.
Unfortunately, the results elsewhere aren’t quite so appealing. On “Encore” and “The Hunter”, Mr Mouse’s input seems to suffocate rather than liberate, the breakdown at the end of “Goodbye Angels” sounds like a half-hearted RHCP tribute act, and “Detroit” and “This Ticonderoga” are the kind of Chilis-by-numbers nonsense that should probably should have been consigned to the recycle bin, complete with trademark dodgy Kiedis lyrics - “You would not repent, for sitting on my elephant”…!
So, still relevant? Well, it’s nigh-on impossible to see The Getaway propelling RHCP back to their Californication/By The Way heyday and inspiring a new generation of stadium-conquering funk rockers, but it’s a solid, occasionally excellent album that fills me with hope they may still have a great one left in them. So, on those terms, I guess the answer has to be yes.
- Andy West