Are we ready for a new Chili Pepper?

Sometimes fear of change is justified, especially when it could mean poor album sales and the dissolution of a band.

It’s hard to say at this point whether change for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) is good or bad. The absence of John Frusciante in the Chili’s new release I’m With You is obvious and unfortunate. However, newcomer Josh Klinghoffer seems like a breath of fresh air that could bring something new and exciting to the band. Only time will tell.

According to interviews, guitarist and vocalist Frusciante left RHCP back in 2009 in order to pursue other musical interests. Frusciante recorded and toured with RHCP for about 15 years, and was crucial to the writing of popular albums Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication. He left a big guitar-sized hole in RHCP that’s hard to fill.

Klinghoffer doesn’t necessarily fill Frusciante’s shoes; he replaces the soles and polishes the scuffs. I’m With You clearly misses Frusciante’s sound, but Klinghoffer brings a subtler, softer sound to the album. It sounds like the Chili Peppers all grown up.

Klinghoffer actually used to play with Frusciante, and toured with RHCP during part of Stadium Arcadium. He seems the most natural fit for this family-tight band.

As a huge fan of RHCP I’ve watched them play live three times—once with The Mars Volta, another band Frusciante has played with—and I really look forward to seeing what the live performance is like with a different guitarist.

As far as album sales are concerned, RHCP has their well-established name to thank, and the fact that no other popular bands sound like them. Their first album release “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” reached number one on Billboard Alternative Songs chart, their 12th number one song. An international tour is on right now, and will be followed by a tour of the United States and Australia in 2012—no word on Canada yet.

I’m With You stays true to RCHP’s funk-rock sound, and there are a few really great tracks on the album such as “Ethiopia”, “Brendan’s Death Song”, and “Police Station” that sound like true RHCP. “Monarchy of Roses” features Flea’s fantastic bass lines, and lead singer Anthony Kiedis’s way with words lay poetry to most of the lyrics. After a five year album writing hiatus—the last release was double-disk Stadium Arcadium in 2006—this jump back to the spotlight seems very successful. But John will be missed.

The guys have grown up, and their lyrics are more mature but in songs like “Factory of Faith” a flailing Anthony Kiedis and acrobatic Flea still have the energy that catapulted RHCP to fame back in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. While I’m With You lacks an “Under the Bridge” or a “Californication” the album stands strong and is a good entry for Klinghoffer. There is some sound-experimenting that could use exploration in order for Klinghoffer to stand out in this band of stars.

For now, have a listen and make your own opinion of I’m With You. RHCP is one of a handful of bands that still holds together and produces consistent work with lots of hits, and it’s unlikely that will stop anytime soon. Good luck to Klinghoffer, and hopefully RHCP makes a Canadian appearance in 2012!

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